Reading the lessons for the 2nd and 3rd services of Ash Wednesday this morning (I lump them all together in the morning) I began thinking about first and second order issues as I contemplated what I might do for Lenten discipline. Gin and tonic, Pringles and afternoon cake – banished. Daily cycle rides for health – except my bike has a puncture today.
Same-sex relations are a first order issue, says Anglican Mainstream, while the ordination of women as priests and bishops is a second order issue. It’s a first order issue for Archbishop Deng of Sudan, says Chris Sugden. I’ve never understood why same-sex love and relationships are a first order, Communion-breaking issue.
To me, there have always been other, far more important issues which are first order. And isn’t one of the purposes of Lent an opportunity to remind ourselves of the primary reasons for being a Christian and attempting to root ourselves more deeply in a Christian pattern of life? I’m not giving up love for my partner for Lent. I have never read a verse from the Bible which tells me to stop loving my same-sex partner.
What I read this morning in 1 Timothy is that I, a person of God, must pursue justice, piety, integrity, love, fortitude, and gentleness. I am to run the great race of faith and lay hold of eternal life, for to this we have been called.
This is what I have always given myself to – issues which I believe are of first importance for Christians. We are to pursue justice, piety, integrity, love, fortitude and gentleness because these qualities characterise the Christian life.
Changing Attitude exists to pursue justice. I give an hour at the beginning of each day, not piously but in piety, to prayer and the contemplation of God. Changing Attitude has always placed integrity at the centre of our work, being open and honest about ourselves and granting integrity to those who disagree with us.
Love is at the heart of God and at the heart of our work, which is to so change church attitudes that all can discern the holy love which can be present in adult, faithful same-sex relationships. Fortitude is essential. The road to full inclusion is long and the abuse and misrepresentation we are subjected to causes deep pain. Gentleness must characterise our work. We are too gentle for some, those who grow impatient with the church and find us too reluctant to demand change or confront prejudice in others.
“But while he was still a long way off his father saw him, and his heart went out to him; he ran to meet him, flung his arms round him, and kissed him.” Luke 15.20
I pray for change now, justice now, equality in the church for LGBT people now. I am patient enough to know that change is achieved by a combination of those who are angrily impatient and those who work patiently and prayerfully.
How far off was the son when the father saw him – at the farm gate, the end of a long farm track, a mere speck in the distance? I like to imagine that the father saw the son coming home the moment he set off from the piggery.
God is watching those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians and has been watching our slow journey home for some considerable time. I like to imagine that, with many of us, God is impatient at the time the journey is taking. I have no doubt that God recognises us as first order Christians, people pursuing justice, piety, integrity, love, fortitude and gentleness