I was in almost unbroken conversation with people at Synod in York for 9 hours yesterday. I learnt a great deal which has shed light on the culture of the Church of England and on the review process taking place into human sexuality.
People spoke at great length in confidence, trusting that I would respect what they revealed. I learnt a number of things from the conversations – and not just corrections to false assumptions I had made. I learnt that I am trusted and Changing Attitude is trusted. I learnt to trust that the Spirit is moving in creative ways that may well result in surprises for the Church (and at times of crisis I can forget to trust that the Spirit is always moving in holy, healthy, creative ways amongst us).
I discovered that the interpretation by the Changing Attitude team of what happened at our meeting with the House of Bishops Working Group on Thursday morning was at total variance with their experience of the encounter. Theirs was very positive, and my negative blog was read with some astonishment and distress.
I have no idea how such different reactions to the same meeting came about. The CA team sat for an hour after the meeting and reflected on how we felt it had gone. We all felt we had been criticised and they had been bored. I found it impossible to get a handle on what was going on when we were in the room, and that’s unusual for me.
Maybe our diametrically opposed experiences are a reflection of other dynamics present in the group itself and in Church House culture. The Church of England is, at the moment, in a considerable mess, over civil partnerships, equal marriage, women in the episcopate and the Anglican Covenant. Church House and the House of Bishops are failing to capture or articulate the mind of Christ and the movement of the Spirit in the Church and the world. Both groups are on the defensive, trying to accommodate attitudes which I don’t think are particularly Christian but are given a place of respect in the institutional Church.
I’ve picked up from a number of sources (though until there is public confirmation I’m unsure whether to trust what I hear) that the penny has dropped and the hierarchy recognise that the Church of England’s refusal to affirm faithful, lifelong, monogamous gay relationships is a big mistake. The result might mean the acceptance of civil partnerships in church, or approval of a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships.
We are knocking at a more open door than I thought.