Anxiety about the present and the future

I surfaced from sleep this morning in a panicky dream. I was travelling by train to Waterloo and we were rising ever higher over the main tracks at Raynes Park on a flyover that doesn’t exist. I was scared by the height the train had reached but worked out emotionally that the line must still be stable and safe for the train.

Next I was walking in a leafy suburb to I know not what and suddenly realized I had left everything in York – lap top, the Coalition display, my overnight bag. How had I done this? I’d been celebrating with WATCH and had caught the bus and train and simply forgotten about those things essential to my time in York and my life’s work. I panicked again and thought hard about how I could recover the items without returning north. I worked out that I could ask Jeremy to drive over to York and pick everything up. Someone would have gathered them together and put them somewhere safe.

I woke and showered. And then I began to think about what had happened yesterday and what lay in the future. Women bishops are soon going to be appointed. LGBTI people still live in the limbo of uncertainty. Changing Attitude has to work for our equality and safety in the Church in the context of a changing atmosphere. In speeches yesterday, people spoke repeatedly of respect for diversity, generosity, trust, relationships and mutual flourishing. The atmosphere this Synod has indeed felt very different, my conversations open and flowing, even with people where there could have been great tension.

We have to do our work towards achieving full equality in the context of the mutual conversations. We don’t yet know how they are going to be effectively organised to ensure that LGBTI can participate safely and be properly represented. We certainly don’t know, and may never know, whether the conversations will actually lead the Church towards the goal that matters to us.

What I do know from this Synod is that there are two sets of people in the Church who still question whether the Church has genuinely created a place for them, and will test this reality not only against the greater inclusion of women in the hierarchy of the Church but against any change which creates more space in the Church for LGBTI people.

On the conservative evangelical end of the spectrum are those for whom headship is an important truth and who want bishops appointed who embody their theology. At the other end of the spectrum are those who effectively have a theology of taint about women in the Church (however they dress it up) and who require space in the Church where their priests and bishops have not been contaminated by the involvement of women bishops.

I’m glad I don’t have to worry about satisfying their expectations, expectations which for them are enshrined in the measure passed yesterday.

I worry about the groups and individuals who still believe the Bible prohibits those changes which are necessary if the Church is to become a place of sufficient diversity, generosity, trust so that LGBTI people can flourish.

Some of the people I talked with yesterday evening at the Accepting Evangelicals meeting spoke of the importance of the physical in prayer, of breathing and opening your body to the energy of God and creation and integrating in a healthy spiritual life heart and head, mind and soul. When people begin to live and pray holistically, their whole body open to the creative, evolutionary energy of God, then lives are transformed – and the Church of England might stand a chance of being transformed into a flourishing, relational community – truly the Body of Christ. I’m still not sure whether this transformation will happen. But I’m going to live my life into the absolute potential for it to happen. Because God is in creation and creation is holy and every particle of matter is infused with the potential to create healthy, holy, relational, flourishing patterns in life.


  1. Barry A. Orford says

    Colin, I have much appreciated your comments from General Synod, but I cannot go along (as you appear to do) with the notion of “mutual conversations”. The time for those is long past, and it is difficult not to see them as a desperate ploy by the bishops to buy themselves a few more days before they have to publicly change their stance on same-sex partnerships. What self-respecting person is willing to submit to being the subject of official “conversations”, becoming in effect a specimen to be dissected? Justin Welby (by arguing that our society cannot comprehend why women should not be made bishops) and George Carey (by conceding that he might have been putting rules before people when considering assisted dying) have shown that the same arguments must be given weight when the Church’s present position on same-sex relationships is challenged. We need to apply pressure here, not waste time on pointless “conversations”.

Join the discussion