In the Church of England the highest value is being placed on the facilitated conversations achieving a consensus before any change of teaching about or practice in relation to the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in the Church can be considered. Achieving consensus isn’t in itself a bad ambition, but it might not necessarily be the prime objective for Christians.
Thinking about it from my biblical or Christological perspective other ideals or values might seem to be more obvious prime goals. I would place the at the centre the primacy of God’s unconditional, infinite, generous, faithful, gracious, creative love.
The hierarchy is annoyed that two different gay priests have gone ahead and got married, prioritising their own desire for personal love and fidelity in relationship over the needs of the institution which is prioritising other values. I suspect most people would support the priests in their decision to marry.
The two priests are not alone. Couples who are in love with each other and have lived in relationship for many years and are committed to each other in a covenant of faithful love and believe in marriage are going to prioritise the sealing of their relationship, legally, as a priority.
Lay and ordained lesbian and gay Christians who believe in equal marriage are now drawn to marry as the absolutely right thing to do. Is this really a selfish act, as the guardians of the institutional Church are telling us?
More than the desire to marry of those couples for whom this has been until recently a distant dream is the heartfelt yearning from thousands of people to celebrate joyfully and publicly with lesbian and gay couples who are marrying or planning to marry.
People want to celebrate this new-found freedom. Equal marriage is a moment of holy transformation for lesbian and gay people of faith. Our relationships are now honoured in society and by the State. The majority of Christians understandably want to celebrate the inclusion in marriage of a group of people who have long lived guilty, secret lives and loves, victims of prejudice and abuse.
The Church is attempting to suppress the freedom of people to celebrate with exhilaration and joy this new gift to a long-marginalised people. The Church of England wants to prioritise not loving, faithful relationships but the needs of the institution. Institutional needs are not a prime Christian value.
Equal marriage is a prophetic moment for the whole body of the Church catholic. A group of people, still marginalised and vilified by the Church in many countries and cultures, are being honoured for the quality of our loving, faithful relationships. What’s amazing is that this obviously just and right extension of God’s fidelity to us in unconditional love isn’t being welcomed by the whole Church.
Love is stronger than death, always stronger than death, even when achieving consensus and a legalistic Biblicism attempts to trump infinite love.