Thursday 22 October 2009

Is there hope for radical change in the church despite the Pope?

My initial reaction to the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI has approved Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church was to feel threatened by the news. The move by Rome seemed destined to strengthen the reactionary conservative power blocks in both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.

It looked like another development in my worst nightmare scenario. I feared it would be another development in the grand plan to impose a uniformity of order on the Church of England which is contrary to the Anglican ethos. There is a determination to eradicate from the church any possibility of movement and positive reform in the roles played women and LGBT people. This movement denies reality, in both Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, the reality of significant numbers of lesbian (in the CofE) and gay priests who are present at every level of ministry and those who long for women to be ordained as bishops as well as priests.

All the time conservatives are attempting to polarize opinion, presenting our choices on this planet as being between irreconcilable opposites – between reformers in the church and those who are faithful to tradition, between Christians and Muslims, between Biblical and non-Biblical Christians, polarizing relationships within the human community. They are all false choices.

Conservatives greeted the Pope’s announcement triumphantly as proof that they are winning a global battle for what they term orthodox mainstream Christianity.

Having talked with my spiritual director yesterday and thought about the future more carefully, there may well be positive results for those of us who are following a quite different Christian path, one committed to a new paradigm of faith, which includes welcoming at every level of ministry women and LGBT people. My God-trusting soul says there will indeed be a creative outcome.

Many Roman Catholics who long for change and work for radical inclusion will be as depressed as me, and look towards those who are committed to broad-church radical Anglicanism as a sign of hope for the future and a place where faith can be explored more easily.

My faith draws me towards people, refusing to define and judge people according to the community they identify with, whether they are faith communities or communities identified by race, sexuality or nationality. This planet isn’t going to survive unless we all learn to get along together. Conflicts based on rising sea levels, climate change, food shortages or faith will destroy us.

The movements in the Church of England working for the full inclusion of LGBT people and women share a passion (albeit suppressed British passion) and vision with our sister churches in the USA and Canada. We are, with them, exploring new paradigms for Christianity which are responsive to the changing face of our planet.

For people who are working for radical change in the church, inspired by a relationship with God that challenges so many traditional assumptions and expectations, we have no alternative but to follow our call and work with conviction and passion for change, welcoming relationships with all whom God is leading towards the same vision of unity and integration rather than conflict and polarization.

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