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Feel I need to get some thoughts out of my head before attempting to sleep tonight.

I was busy getting on with the day job when Bishop Justin went on the radio this morning, so I only saw a few tidbits before I caught sight of the Guardian line “African Christians will be killed if C of E accepts gay marriage, says Justin Welby http://gu.com/p/3z6m9/tw

Cue double take. It’s been an interesting week already. I’m as horrified as the next person that a) people think it’s ok to withdraw sponsorship from children in need because of the orientation of some of the staff of the international organisation. But b) I’m even more horrified that such blackmail/bullying was so instant and so great, and that World Vision bowed to it – I guess to stop those children losing their sponsorship, but then I’m back to how is that Christian  in the first place.

I’m really not sure I could do that. I am though, having forced to think it through, conscious that I’d actually be very hesitant now about sponsoring a child through an organisation that uses my money to help teach children things I think are wrong, and things which continue to feed violence toward same sex attraction in Africa. The little girl I sponsored through a small scale charity is not via a large conservative evangelical operation, and I find myself thankful for that. But I wonder if to seek out statements of faith that I agree with before I’d do it again makes me almost as bad… :(

When the writers of Rev came to Westcott and produced the  episode with the archdeacon in the bed shop, I don’t think we were in any way expecting the delay in scheduling to produce the episode we watched on Monday. Along with many others, it made me cry, and, along with many others, I am in the same boat as Simon Harvey. Never mind marriage, I long to be able to bless faithful committed couples who want to offer their relationship to God. Currently, I can’t, even with the law change, and that breaks my heart. Also, along with many others, I have no intention of breaking my oath, and it mightily irritates me that such an assumption is made of us by others who object.

Then I watched Our Gay Wedding: the musical and cried all over again. At all the same points everyone else who’s watched it through the week has tweeted at. (I presume, and sadly, that those vehemently against same sex marriage, won’t watch it at all for fear of feeling nauseous, and thus can’t hope to be moved by the registrar, or the mothers…) Never mind what I said in the last paragraph, actually I do want to be able to marry them too.

And today came a lovely piece by Andrew Davison in the Church Times. While I was on retreat at Westcott the week after the pastoral statement, I heard a bit of that in the making, and I realise that whilst my tutor, Andrew managed to teach me enough philosophy that even I found the piece easy to follow and pretty cogent.

And then I caught sight of the Guardian. I’m already wondering if this week hasn’t gone some way toward making explicit how hard it will be for any kind of facilitated conversation in the church. Yes, I’d love for people who haven’t journeyed, studied, prayed and loved their way to where I am now to do so, so that the inclusive and radical hospitality of the God of love could truly be shared with everyone, but I know many of them have no intention of changing their minds (so the point of conversation is…. and “they” seem to think “we” are only wanting to get them to change theirs… I think “they” are wanting me to repent. I won’t. Sorry).

It saddens me, but I can’t object to them having their views. But I have mine, and they’re deeply held after much experience, study and reflection. And they’re as valid as others’. And if I don’t want to force “you” into feeling forced into performing blessings “you” don’t agree with, I’d really appreciate the return respect of “you” not forcing me not to.

Because “you” are not God either. And “you” never know whether in the long run, “we” might turn out to be right. So those who think it important to keep an untainted line of episcopacy in case “we” turn out to be wrong, should maybe think too about allowing the opening of a potentially inspired option here too, which offers the radical generosity we saw in Christ – heaven forbid that might be the side which “wins” eventually.

As with the women in the episcopacy issue, there is a fundamental imbalance of ‘held view’ versus ‘very identity’. Womens’ ministry does not alter someone’s own identity in Christ, even if it offends them. Being born gay and being given someone to love enough to want to celebrate that in God and in public doesn’t alter someone else’s identity in Christ, even if it offends them. Views can be held, changed or not changed. The very essence of who you are cannot.

I’m still pondering this round and about in spare moments (of which there aren’t many) and then I double take. Does the Guardian really say that? Does it know how inflammatory that is, how painful? Did he really say that? I know bishop Justin is more conservative than me, and I know he worries about the Anglican communion (to say the rest of us don’t, would be harsh, but still) but seriously? So where do we stand this week now, then? Justin’s public signalling of the end of the Church’s opposal of same sex marriage (ie same sex marriage) was only a sweetener for the sharper end of ‘but as for within the church, forget it’?

I fear that if there were only the faint tracings of lines in the sand before, trenches might just now get built. And I fear that I now wait for someone to say something along the lines of what a bad Christian I am if I do not care enough about the lives of people in Africa who may be killed if we allow gay marriage in the Church of England.

I fear I wait for someone to point out (gently chastise or reprove or whatever it is Paul tells “you” to do to “us”) how selfish it is of those liberals of us (we aren’t evangelical however carefully we study our bibles if we come to the ‘wrong’ answer) to wish to insist on selfish lifestyle choices in our flagrantly individualised immoral cultures. About how it’s a pale kind of ‘unjust’ that gay couples cannot marry here, versus ‘unjust’ that innocent people might be murdered elsewhere.

Because if they do, I shall have to bite my tongue extremely hard not to say that in 43? of the 53 countries of the commonwealth, being gay is still an offence (did I really see something along those horrific lines behind the Erasure song in Our Gay Wedding?). In many countries across Africa and beyond, there is physical violence and murder of those who happen to be born gay. And yes, you may reprove me, but you may not judge me, God – radical, generous, hospitable, inclusive, loving God – will do that. And actually, it’s also pretty selfish to own all the rights to loving stable relationships and not share those with everyone who wants to share their relationships with God.

No, I do not want to see anyone have to stand next to a mass grave and know that people have been killed because hermeneutics, science, theological scholarship and society have moved on. But goodness, if the blackmail or bullying of stopping feeding children which turned World vision round was sickening, I sure hope that this isn’t going to become a favoured point of bashing the pro-equal-church-marriage. However delicately poised the balance between home and the communion, it’s a very, very thin end. No, we can’t weigh up political or spiritual equality against torture and death, but however horrified I am by anybody’s murder, I’m really struggling to see how we can move forward anywhere ever on that kind of premise.

Coherent, no. Heartfelt, yes. Intention to engage in conversation, no. Fear that ‘facilitated conversations’ are set up for failure (and not just because of the liberals determined to see change – Worldvision showed us that “the other side” retrench just as much), yes. Delighted for those who’ve been able to get married this week, yes. Hateful of it descending into sides, us and them, you and me, yes.

Head emptied. Bed.

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This last week has seen an outcry (should it have been a large[r] outcry?) over a member of General Synod’s comments encouraging Jamaica in its anti-gay laws, and Uganda voting in their pernicious bills too. These two events come fast after the internationally observed World AIDS day, to mark which the BBC has been showing a three part docu-drama made by Swedish TV, called (by the BBC) Don’t ever dry tears without gloves. This was an award-winning production last year and is heart-meltingly stark and beautiful. It gives parts of the ending away right from the start in many future and back inserts, and, set in Stockholm’s gay community as the AIDS epidemic took off, many of the scenes of the final part are pretty tear-jerking.

It’s an incredibly powerful three-parter. Love – Disease – Death doesn’t hesitate to show us the highs and lows, and challenge us with the difference of ‘stereotypical’ behaviour – multiple casual partners, quick flings behind public buildings, seedy pickups and park encounters. But neither does it spare us the tender love at first sight which marks the central relationship, and its fidelity and enduring commitment.

I know someone who honoured us with sharing some of the pain of the loss of his long term partner many years ago, to AIDS related illness – in that time, when ignorance was rife and the drugs weren’t well developed. It hurts each time to see the memories etched on his face when he talks of the end. He is still here with those memories, still faithful to that one love. I thought of him a lot while watching Torkar aldrig tårar utan handskar. From my engagement now with the funeral trade I can honestly say that one of the saddest things I learnt was not how nursing staff treated living patients back then – and I remember the epidemic becoming news well enough – but how deceased patients are treated. I could not but exclaim out loud as my hand shot to my mouth seeing one of Rasmus’ nightmares come true.

It’s a beautiful, searingly honest and accessible drama. Documentary. I suspect I prefer the latter as the former almost implies embellishment,  of which I think it needed or had little. It’s well worth watching and being challenged by. On a number of levels. By how much we have learnt and understood since the 80s. By how stereotypes form/are portrayed/aren’t the full picture. By how there is never just black and white. By how narrow-minded/hamstrung by ‘what people will think’ people were and still are.  By how important it is for people’s relationships to be recognised as an integral part of their identity and dignity. By how important it is for equality in all sorts of small things – recognition of partnerships/marriages, significant ‘others’ – and in big things – not white-washing of lives lived, editing people or events out of funerals.

By how we should look back and recall the eruption of AIDS onto the world scene through a small subset of communities which coloured how we view them and the disease. By how we treated them – and how Jesus treated the lepers. (The title comes from a scene at the beginning of the first episode, when a nurse, having finished caring for a young man in agony, leans across before she leaves, having already stripped her latex gloves, and wipes away the tear falling down his cheek; then gets a dressing down as soon as she and her colleague get out of the isolation room – and much more stringently in Swedish than in the English subtitles). by spending a moment remembering just how radical Princess Diana was to shake hands with an AIDS sufferer. By how important it is not to forget the shadow AIDS still casts today – but in different communities and in places without access to retro-viral drugs. By how important it is to ensure unborn babies are treated, and how safe sex still needs to be preached and practised, even in direct disregard of the Church. By how important the message Canon Gideon came to give at Westcott is.

Be challenged by the unacceptable treatment of those born gay in the image of God, not twenty years ago, not living a high-risk, high-octane lifestyle. Be challenged by the challenge AIDS still presents to us in Africa, to women and children, wives and orphans.

Watch it if you can. Don’t just believe me. It’s available on iPlayer just until Monday, but hopefully will be re-shown. Download it. Quick. Really. “We’ll dry each other’s tears with open hearts,” said Crown Princess Victoria, awarding a prize to author Jonas Gardell (it’s originally 3 books). A good thought. Don’t imagine it cuts much mustard in Uganda or in Jamaica, or Russia – or even still other places closer to home.

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…a documentary. Only apparently we haven’t got any, so it wasn’t going to be a long show…

Justin Fashanu’s niece Amal, in a poignant if amateurish search for reasons any gay footballers keep quiet in the game over ten years after her uncle committed suicide – well worth a watch (link will expire). Welcomed by more…

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A touching story someone shared on Facebook last week about a transgender twin, being supported by her family to be who she knows herself to be came back to me the other day. I commend her father for his support and for his honesty about his wrestling with the situation.

It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent. The Sunday where we rejoice at Mary’s acceptance of her part to play. Not a socially acceptable part, not one that she would likely have chosen for herself, but her fear, trust and acceptance in who she was and that she was chosen and favoured by God. more…

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Let me bring love

Let me bring love
from my brothers
and sisters more…

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What a difference. Yesterday afternoon, the annual Bray lecture hosted by Westcott had a Ugandan cleric speaking. First and foremost, the irony wasn’t lost on us. He came, welcomed by Westcott,  preaching love. There wasn’t the whole Federation here, but there was the odd representative from other houses, which was good. Let me bring love and greetings from Uganda to my Christian family here, he said. There was, I confess, a lump instantly in my throat. more…

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well, I might not get to cover all of them in this post…. I am, currently, whilst sponsored by, not yet employed by, an institution which may not espouse the thoughts contained herein, and thus whilst I hope that they are opinions I will be able to openly hold by the end of my career, they may not be views I will be allowed publicly to hold from next summer. I suspect they may therefore not be views I should openly hold now, but the one thing I am committed to is my own integrity, especially in the presence of people I care about and whose integrity I uphold. </disclaimer> more…

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It’s question I find myself asking a lot, especially when faced with fundamental conservative views more…

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One of the things I didn’t do over the holidays was a load of reading for my ethics essay. It’s not one I shall be sharing particularly publicly, though I don’t hide how I feel about the topic. There are many issues tearing the church apart internally, and whilst I’m obviously happy to be working for an organisation which will [eventually] no longer have a purple ceiling for women, women is only half the conflict the Anglican Communion finds itself in. (I find myself wondering if the equivalent should be a pink ceiling…) more…

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