Anyone interested in the religious news in the UK will be aware that the Primates of the Anglican communion are meeting in London to discuss the differences between us – most especially as it concerns the place of and treatment of homosexuals. I daresay that there will be some, perhaps many, who wonder why we are bothering, the Gospel message is clear, what’s the problem. To them I can do no better than to cite the sermon by the Preacher to the Papal Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa at the Westminster Abbey service at the opening of General Synod. Entitled “Rebuild my House”, Fr. Raniero urged:
“We should never allow a moral issue like that of sexuality divide us more than love for Jesus Christ unites us.”
That is a difficult saying for many. where, they will ask, is the repentance? The traditionalists are not the only ones asking for repentance, however, as a group of bishops and priests have sent a letter to the Archbishops asking them for an
Acknowledgement that we, the Church, have failed in our duty of care to LGBTI members of the Body of Christ around the world. We have not loved them as we should, and have treated them as a problem to be solved rather than as brothers and sisters in Christ to be embraced and celebrated. We have made them feel second-class citizens in the Kingdom of God, often abandoned and alone.
Repentance for accepting and promoting discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, and for the pain and rejection that this has caused. We, the Church, need to apologise for our part in perpetuating rather than challenging ill-informed beliefs about LGBTI people, such as the slanderous view that homosexuals have a predisposition to prey on the young.
So, we have liberals asking for repentance for how the church has treated individuals, and conservatives asking where is the repentance for the sin of homosexuality from those who reject the idea that their behaviour is sinful. Can even the Anglican communion find some middle way here?
For me the answer has to be that it cannot, if by middle way one means some compromise. Once everyone is asking for others to repent without being willing to show any sign of it themselves, we have entered a phase of passive-aggressive behaviour which will possibly only escalate. None of us ever recognises ourselves as the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal, and none of us accepts that we are Pharisaical; it sometimes seems to me that the thing we all find most difficult is to consider ourselves as sinners.
In all of these discussions, we often fail to take into account those Christians with a same-sex attraction who take the Pauline injunctions seriously, and who abstain from acting upon that attraction for that reason. Yes, it is possible to explain away some of the words Paul uses as not meaning what the Church has always taken them to mean, and it is equally possible to argue that they do. One can get into abstruse arguments and come to the conclusion one wanted: eisegesis is easy. Less easy is to accept that the Gospel message is that we all have a tendency not to obey what Paul says to Titus about God’s Grace
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world
We have all, on all sides, allowed this issue to divide us more than the love of Christ unites us. That, alas, may be because we are now on two sides of a chasm. You cannot repent of what you not consider a sin – and neither side here thinks it has sinned. So the question might be how we separate without hatred creeping in?