Cranmer’s challenge to Changing Attitude

Cranmer has referred to Changing Attitude on his blog. “[H]e would like to have a mature chat with both Changing Attitude and Reform, and exhort both not to swing for each other via the broadcasting airwaves or print columns, but to reflect very carefully on the primacy of the mission of salvation to which we are all called.” Cranmer, it would help relate to you if you were open about your identity.

I am already reflecting very carefully on the primacy of the mission of salvation to which we are called. This is why I prefaced my blog about bishops in civil partnerships with a Jim Cotter canticle and the reflection that light in darkness and truth in love is fundamental to my experience of the presence of God.

“Homosexuality is not an issue worthy of schism: it is simply not of the order of the sort of debate that used to divide the Church.”

“… it is neither a battle for the soul of the church, nor an issue worthy of schism.”

I agree it’s not worthy of schism. But it clearly is at the moment the kind of debate that threatens to divide the Church. Cranmer thinks the issue of homosexuality affects only a tiny minority of its adherents: it is of distinctly secondary, even peripheral, scriptural importance. I agree it is of peripheral scriptural importance. However, it affects far more Church members than he imagines – families and extended families are affected, friends and colleagues are affected, and so are congregations. Every congregation has members who are affected.

“His Grace is attempting to address something deeper than the most recent ‘event’: he is speaking into a chronic underlying situation.”

I am attempting to speak into the chronic underlying situation. My analysis of what this is differs from Cranmer’s. I think Christianity is inadequately rooted, spiritually. People are not rooted in a deep, embodied, soulful, heartfelt life of prayer and contemplation. Awareness of God is often superficial. People who abandon the Church often do so because it fails to nourish spiritually. They also abandon the Church, of course, because it doesn’t connect with their real lives, real lives where God is to be encountered, if only the Church connected with where the Holy Spirit has real potential to flourish in people’s lives.

A battle for the soul of the Church is, however, underway. Some believe the Church betrays what Cranmer calls the “objective, moral order in creation”, continued as a work of re-creation through Jesus, established by God.

If there is an objective, moral order in creation, it is an order which is evolving over time in the evolutionary, creative process. Our ideas about morality and what is ethically acceptable clearly change in the course of history. Christian attitudes towards marriage, divorce, contraception, the place of sex in relationships, transgender people and homosexuality have been evolving for many decades. They are not and never have been static. The current debate around homosexuality allows heterosexual issues to be explored at a safe distance (for heterosexuals) by proxy.

“If such a moral order means anything, there may be no via media on the issue of homosexuality. We need to continue to struggle together for the truth, to find the right and godly balance between the call to solidarity and the recognition of difference. Presently, nowhere is this more important – especially in the Anglican Communion – than in the area of sexuality.”

Of course there’s a via media, Cranmer. There is always a via media and such a belief is fundamental to the Anglican tradition in which I was brought up and which still inspires me. And yes, it’s important in the area of sexuality and the Anglican Communion because in some Provinces such as Uganda, lesbian and gay Anglicans, their families and pastors and congregations are threatened with terms of imprisonment if they fail to betray their brothers and sisters, let alone the sentence of death or life imprisonment for lesbians and gays.

“The issue for the Church of England is that this debate has been blown out of all proportion; it is a question utterly peculiar to this era, and those on both sides of the divide. [C]ontrary to society’s thinking, sexual expression is neither a necessary line of inquiry in every human interaction, nor an essential component in human fulfilment.”

The question of homosexuality is specific to this era because if is the issue of the moment that challenges attitudes across all cultures and continents. It is the issue placed before us by God, and until we resolve it in a holy and creative way we will not move on and it will not let us go. None of us are responsible for placing it on the agenda and keeping it there. It’s there, and we have to deal with it

Sexuality is fundamental to human living, and is indeed an essential component in human fulfillment, as any celibate monk or nun will tell you. Sexuality and the question of sexual expression doesn’t disappear for those called to celibacy. The Church of England his hindering rather than helping the process of coming to terms with enabling mission and evangelism to flourish because it is stuck in a defensive, unrealistic, fearful dynamic which saps energy, and denies reality and truth.

I long to see the Church flourish, and it will only do so when it creates an environment in which all of us can flourish, whatever our gender or sexuality or a whole variety of differences which God treasures and celebrates. We are slow to catch up with God!


  1. Una Kroll says

    Thank you Colin. The Media reports were confusing and I was so glad you wrote as you did. I abhor the dishonesty called for and long for a change of heart. But am not very optimistic. Still let us go on. One day it will happen. Una

  2. William says

    What His (self-styled) Grace is slow to understand, or to give appropriate weight to, is the unfolding revelation of God.

    This is because he, like others of his persuasion, probably believes that the Bible is “God’s Word,” an obviously heretical view (in that our Lord is clearly identified in Scripture as the Word of God), and a view unsupported by the Nicene Creed.

    Having fallen into that error he cannot admit that God is continually being revealed to the world as each day passes.

    Arguing, as he does, that there can be no “via media”, is another way of saying that since the most recent book of the Bible was completed nothing new has been experienced of God’s love, God’s purpose and God’s plan for humanity, which is a nonsense.

    By the way, it will come as no surprise to hear that “His Grace” [sic] has blocked me from his Twitter account. Second only to his scorn for homsexuals comes his refusal to be open to change and new insights.

    Writers of this type are not theologians: they are guardians of a false tradition which is steadily crumbling.

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