The Revd Mark’s thoughts for March

Dear Friends

I’m sure you were more aware than usual of the proceedings of the General Synod of the Church of England in February* Even if you wouldn’t normally be interested, it’s been all over the media. Sex sells. The media are never more interested in the Church than when we are talking about it. Except that we weren’t. Not really. This is in part where the issue comes from. Christians can tend to get so hung-up about people’s lovemaking and whether they regard it as legitimate or not. As the Archbishops said in the pastoral letter after the ‘take note’ debate in synod, what we’re discussing here is not an issue or a ‘problem’ for the Church, but people and their lives and their relationships. It would be hard to read the Bible and conclude that sexual morality is not important, but when we’re discussing marriage and what it means; sex is only a part of that, an important part, but a part nonetheless. Personally, I’m not persuaded that the Bible condemns sexual expression between two people, whatever their genders, who are in a loving, committed relationship. Others disagree. Some certainly do so out of homophobia. I would find it hard to agree that if the people I know of that ‘traditional’ mindset are coming from that place. But I have not had to live with the prejudice and stigma that my LGBT friends have endured, often, sadly in churches.

All Hallows prides itself on being an inclusive church. We have become a safe haven for a handful of LGBT people who have not found the same welcome elsewhere. Inclusivity is in our DNA. If that means anything, it must also mean that people who hold to what’s regarded as the traditional teaching on sexuality should also find a welcome here. That welcome and inclusivity does mean that anyone has the freedom to wound others with their prurient questioning or by presuming that they can teach others about their lives. The basis of our welcome has been, and I believe should continue to be, that we celebrate our differences and the richness that gives us. There may be spaces we can create for honest and compassionate conversation but never singling anyone out for special scrutiny.

In this season of Lent, perhaps we could take some time to consider the radical hospitality of Jesus. In this time of self-reflection we might ask ourselves, who is it that I exclude, in my thinking, in my words, or in my behaviour—consciously or unconsciously? Diversity is a gift of God in Creation. By opening ourselves even more fully to difference this Lent, we may grow in our knowledge and love of God and neighbour.