I met Terence Weldon at the Cutting Edge Consortium Conference on Saturday. Originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, Terence has lived in the UK since 2003. A Catholic, he is a regular and active participant in London’s ‘Soho Masses’. His web site, Queering the Church – towards a reality based theology, has evolved from his involvement in the political repercussions of the masses.
Terence recounted his experience of the collapse of the apartheid regime. The government and the people were already disconnected prior to the end of the regime. The government simply caved in to the inevitable, accepting the reality which the population was already living – racial discrimination and prejudice was no longer tolerated. The apartheid regime lost the war.
He also analysed the state of the Catholic Church, reinforcing what ex-catholic Matthew Fox had told me on Good Friday. The hierarchy, the Vatican enclave, is totally divorced from every day life as lived by Catholics around the world. The teaching of the magisterium is ignored. The ‘church’, the mass of people who worship each Sunday, have already separated themselves from the mindset of the Pope and his papal entourage. The Pope has already lost the war.
One Anglican group has already lost the war and another is losing battles on the way to losing the war.
The English House of Bishops has lost the war on the place of LGB&T people in the Church (as well as the Covenant and women in the episcopate, whatever decision Synod makes in July). The majority of people in parishes across the country already welcome as full members of the church partnered lesbian and gay people, including their priests and lay ministers. They would accept partnered lesbian and gay bishops as well, given the chance.
The House of Bishops has been holding a line which is untenable and people have already decided the bishops are wrong. The war has been lost. The challenge for the bishops is to find the confidence to recognise that the people have already changed the teaching and catch up. The responsibility for this lies largely with the two House of Bishops review groups.
The second group losing the battle if not yet the war are the leaders of FCA/GAFCON/AMiE meeting in south London this week. They have already accepted reality by abandoning their desire to either replace the present structures of the Anglican Communion or created an alternative schismatic Church. They have said they can continue to belong to the global Anglican Communion and be recognised as faithful to the Church of England. Bishop Michael Nazir Ali said that the intention of the FCA is not to break with the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican Communion. Reality has replaced fantasy.
The proposal that the chair of the Primates Meeting might be elected by the Primates is not of itself a bad idea. My suspicion, of course, is that the FCA leaders believe they are in the majority and would elect one of their own who would then take the Communion in their preferred direction. That’s a real danger, but I can see the need for the Communion to respond to the changed reality. Anglicanism in the west is tired and declining and the centre of gravity has moved away from England even if it hasn’t yet settled clearly anywhere else.
I’m also moving away from the centre of gravity of this blog. At the grass roots, in parishes and dioceses across the Communion, a change in attitude towards LGB&T people is also taking place. I found the evidence in Kenya. I have no doubt similar changes are happening in every Province. Continuing Indaba and the network of diocesan relationships between Provinces are contributing to the change. So are the courageous LGB&T campaigners who are increasingly visible and vocal. Many of them are Christians, worshipping on Sunday and campaigning through the week.
The Primates and bishops who are the leaders of FCA live in their own bubble. They are protected in an enclave like the Roman curia, but they do live in a world disconnected from other realities that are part of their congregations’ life and work. LGB&T people worship and pray, sing and dance, in every Anglican parish. They are the sons and daughters living mostly invisible to their parents and families, priests and bishops. They are growing in confidence. Their families and congregations are learning about them through media reports and local discourse.
A new paradigm is coming into being. God is changing church attitudes towards human sexuality. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans will be confronted with another challenge in due course – the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have already rejected the ‘orthodox’ teaching of their leaders. Their friends and families will opt to maintain their personal relationships, abandoning the ‘orthodox’ teaching themselves. FCA will maintain an ‘orthodox’ church at the cost of haemorrhaging membership. Their war will be lost.