Friday, 29 January 2016
More and more Church of England members support same-sex marriage
Updated again Sunday morning
Harriet Sherwood has published in the Guardian a report headlined Church of England members back same-sex marriage.
Attitudes to same-sex marriage within the pews of the Church of England are sharply at odds with the stance of its leadership, as for the first time more Anglicans are in favour of gay and lesbian couples marrying than oppose it, according to a poll.
Support for same-sex marriage among church members has significantly increased over the past three years despite the leadership’s insistence that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and its refusal to conduct church weddings for gay couples or allow gay priests to marry…
…A poll conducted in the aftermath of the Canterbury meeting found 45% of people who define themselves as Church of England approve of same-sex marriage, compared with 37% who believe it is wrong. A similar survey three years ago found almost the reverse: 38% of Anglicans in favour and 47% opposed.
The lowest levels of support for same-sex marriage – 24% – were found among Anglican men over the age of 55, a group that dominates the church leadership. Jayne Ozanne, a leading gay activist within the C of E, who commissioned the poll from YouGov, said this finding was “deeply worrying”. “Unfortunately, this is exactly the profile of those in the senior positions of power and influence within the church,” she said.
The poll’s findings, released to the Guardian, are likely to amplify calls within the church for a change in its stance. Gay and lesbian activists say the church’s insistence on a traditional interpretation of scriptures alienates and excludes LGBT Christians, and further marginalises the church in wider society.
The survey found a clear generational difference among Church of England members, with almost three-quarters (72%) of under-35s in favour. There was a majority supporting same-sex marriage in all age groups under 55, but the figure dropped to fewer than one in three older Anglicans. More women than men believe same-sex marriage is right.
Support was largely consistent across different regions of England, contradicting assumptions that people living in London and other major cities are more liberal than others. There was also minimal variation across social class.
Church members in England are still lagging behind the general public, among whom a clear majority – 56% – support same-sex marriage, while 27% say they oppose it…
For more detail about this survey see press release here.
In particular, scroll down to pages 4 and 5 of the PDF for some graphics showing very clearly the shift in opinion over the past three years.
For more numbers:
For full results of 2016 poll amongst all Anglicans living in England go here.
For full results of 2016 poll amongst all respondents living within Great Britain go here.
The 2013 detailed results are on pages 13 and 14 of this rather large file.
There is extensive criticism of this poll at Psephizo The YouGov poll on same-sex marriage
But then again there is discussion of who is a member of the Church of England by Archdruid Eileen Are You Really Church of England?
Further media coverage:
BBC More Anglicans now back gay marriage than oppose it, poll suggests
Telegraph Anglicans ‘more likely to back gay marriage than oppose it’
Christian Today Support for same-sex marriage grows among CofE laity
Independent More Anglicans support gay marriage than oppose it, poll claims
Huffington Post Gay Marriage Support From Christians In The Church Of England Is Now Outstripping Opposition, New Poll Reveals
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on
Friday, 29 January 2016 at 5:15pm GMT
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Church of England
| equality legislation
Crucial thing is whether the "support" becomes active: if it's just support in the abstract, for practical purposes, it may as well not exist.
Are the lay supporters confronting their rectors and bishops, proposing votes of censure at their diocesan synods, and above all, advocating that their parish council withhold funds until the discrimination ends?
Are those on General Synod proposing private members' motions of censure and retraction, and working to get the marriage canons changed?
If not, if conflict is avoided for a quiet life, then while this theoretical support may be a useful stepping stone to the real thing, England ain't there yet.
Wow. Not quite as "with it" as TEC, but on the way. About 85 percent of US Episcopalians support inclusive marriage.
The generational information is, of course, the crucial point.
The victory is won. It's now just a matter of how miserable those 55+ men in charge are going to make it before they check out, I mean retire.
Wouldn't it be something if those old guys just stopped now with the culture wars and moved on to the Good News of Jesus Christ to the poor and oppressed? We have a lot of work to do, ideally together, on climate change and inequality.
Please, I beg of you old geezers in charge, could we please come together on issues that matter to the poorest among us? Please?!
Rude as I may be on the old guys in charge, this is an invitation to leave behind a different legacy than being on the wrong side of history, again. What an opportunity. Let's see if they seize it.
It beggars belief that at the end of the Guardian report 'A Church of England spokesperson' is quoted seeking to rubbish the statistics of this survey ('the poll suggests an inconclusive breadth of view with less than half of Anglicans in England expressing support'). This from the institution that is spending millions chasing management fantasy based on that risible misreading of statistics that is 'Anecdote to Evidence'. This from the organisation that year in year out scrapes the tiniest blip in attendance stats to see the green shoots of revival and support for neo-puritan fantasies. Who is this spokesperson?
Even more worrying, the 'spokesperson' then says:
"The Church of England is part of global Anglican communion which is mutually accountable for its teaching on marriage and other matters."
Really? When did that happen?
It certainly seems to be the case that the hierarchy of the Church of England is not accountable to its members.
1. The Archbishop cannot now say "The Church of England is opposed to same-sex marriage." He can only say "Less than half of us oppose same-sex marriage."
2. If the term 'marriage' was taken out, a far higher % of church members now affirm gay and lesbian sexual relationships.
3. The Church of England, actually, has already repudiated the attempt via The Anglican Covenant to enforce uniform opposition to gay sex.
4. Lancaster University research backs up these trends.
5. The findings of this poll reflect the clear trend of traditional views dying off with an older generation.
6. Young people are potentially alienated by the Bishops' position.
7. The sanctions implicit in the Bishops' Pastoral Letter (and later applied) are at odds with what most Church of England members actually believe.
8. This poll reflects the fact that the Archbishops had no mandate from their own Church to 'sign off' on the actions of the Primates Communique last week.
9. The poll reflects the significant number of church members who signed the open letter to the Archbishops recently. The Church establishment has singled out individuals for sanctions - such as decent hospital chaplains who want to serve people - but actually there are large numbers of people who share the same values as people like Jeremy Pemberton.
10. The poll raises the question: why should a minority in the Church of England impose their dogma on the consciences of the majority, and demand uniformity? Would not 'unity in diversity' be more respectful of good conscience?
Finally, what authority does the Archbishop of Canterbury actually have, to tell the majority of his Church what they should believe and how they should live? Is the Archbishop - in desiring to placate African primates - losing his own Church here in England, on this issue of justice? Why should local churches and priests carry on locking out LGBT people from the blessings of marriage, just because the Archbishop says so?
I am grateful to Rev Graham Southgate for the heads up on this - an informal poll of the Church Times readership on 22nd January asked the question "Do you approve of the Primates' solution to the Communion's problems?" (i.e. the imposition of sanctions on the Episcopal Church of the USA for including same-sex couples in its marriage liturgies). Of the 314 people who replied, 27.1% answered Yes and 72.9% answered No.
Sensational headline of course, let's look at the figures. Would love to know exactly how people defined "Anglican". From the detailed breakdown, it looks simply as though the individual respondents were allowed to define their affiliation. Sadly the UK Census doesn't do denomination, but in the 2015 British Social Attitudes survey, 17% of population identified themselves as Church of England, over 11 million people. We've just heard that regular Sunday attendance in CofE is now just under 1 million. I realise not all TA readers (indeed very few) will agree with me about defining church 'membership', but I would be more interested if Jayne's figures could tell us the views of weekly church attendees.
This must be the case.
And it is good to have it backed up in this way.
I wonder when Parliament will intervene in this debacle, to put things right for everyone ?
The Guardian quotes a Church of England spokesperson as saying, "The Church of England is part of global Anglican communion which is mutually accountable for its teaching on marriage and other matters."
"Mutually accountable?" Really? Why? Says who? Since when?
I call nonsense. (Though I could use a stronger term.)
"Mutually accountable" is assuming what Welby is trying to prove--probably because it suits his ideological proclivities, and also of course because it assists his "first among equals" position.
The Archbishop of Canterbury needs to decide. Is he primate of England or primate of the world?
Canterbury should let go of his (properly minimal) global role. It causes him to put African interests first, ahead of the interests of Anglicans in England.
The Church of England rejected the so-called Anglican Covenant (which was neither).
When did the Church of England give foreign prelates jurisdiction in England?
The linked files do not make it clear what group has been surveyed as it simply describes respondents as having "have religious affliation to Church of England/Anglican/Episcopal and are living in England". It would be interesting to know if they are regular or occasional church goers for example.
I love this, theology by poll.
If you wait for the last marriage equality opponent to die off, CofE, there may not be a church to save anymore! [Godspeed conversion of hearts, instead.]
In most societies, in England even a few generations ago, those who are 55+ would be seen as the oldest and wisest. How times have changed. Now we tend to revere the modernity of youth more than the wisdom of age.
Like Rob, I too am unsettled by the implication that a poll should influence theology.
I happen to believe in marriage equality within the church but to my mind this poll and press release do a great disservice both to the chance of progress on marriage equality, and to the church itself.
Kate, do not shoot the messenger.
Under current leadership, the CofE is succeeding very well at doing itself many disservices.
Would you have the CofE persist in this, uninformed by what its parishioners, not to mention all English people, truly think?
I don't think we revere anybody's opinion.
But it is interesting that younger people simply don't see the problem whereas older people do.
As the church is desperate to keep going beyond the next 10 years and is just starting a new initiative to encourage more people to attend, it is worth considering that insisting on a theology that puts off the group of people you will need to attract to survive may not be the wisest move.
The charge that only committed churchgoers should have been polled also misses the point that in order to fill our pews we have to get those back who have left and attract those who have never been. And if it’s clear that those who feel an affinity with the CoE, however slightly, are increasingly seeing full gay inclusion as completely uncontentious, the church really needs to take note.
This is not theology by poll etc. This is opening our eyes, recognising that there is plenty of good pro-gay theology around and that the church can only win by dropping the simplistic pretence that all good Christians clearly understand the “plain and anti-gay meaning of Scripture”.
I do not think the point of the poll is to influence theology, Kate, but rather highlight that - on an issue on which a strong theological case for inclusion has already been made - it is increasingly difficult for church leaders to argue that any softening on this issue should be ruled out because it would upset 'ordinary Anglicans'.
"I love this, theology by poll."
How so very unlike the Council of Nicea.
"Theology by poll" - surely it is more like "Doctrine by poll"? We all know how reliable opinion polls can be - just look at the last General Election where almost every opinion poll came up with the same result that it was neck and neck between Labour and the Tories - thereafter came the deflation of the Exit Poll which gave a true indication of a clear Tory majority. Or the more recent Oldham West by-election where polls were shewing that it was too close to call between Labour and Ukip. Come the actual poll Labour routed the right wing Ukip with a thumping great majority.
The moral being - Put not your trust in Opinion Polls.
It has been pointed out that a very small percentage of those polled indicated they were regular church-goers. This would be the equivalent of declaring Christianity the religion of the US and then polling everyone without regard for their Christian faith and practice.
Hope a better instrument can be found if one is indeed going to use polls to tell us important things we need to know.
Something like same-sex marriages are either intrinsically right or intrinsically wrong (in any given circumstances) and we should be using Scripture to determine that. (As TEC has done.) Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion suggested Primates should take account of cultural - even Muslim - sensibilities in Africa. I can see that is wrong; but suggesting British cultural sensibilities are relevant, is just as wrong.
Jesus welcomed tax collectors and harlots, although doing so was deeply unpopular. He took on the Pharisees. He healed on the Sabbath because it was the right thing to do, although many religious leaders thought otherwise. If something upsets "ordinary Christians" but is right - bring it on.
The poll and press release are a disservice to the church because the world must never think that the church does things because they are popular or expedient, but only because they are right.
As to the problem of empty pews, look at newspapers, video rental stores, travel agents ... That's the challenge the church is facing. It's not doctrine or theology but the lack of an online strategy that is the problem.
By virtue of being the established church and it's parish system people are members of the CoE if they declare themselves to be so.
I think it's important to recognise that cultural membership is a phenomenon likely to affect the older age groups in the survey only. Young people wouldn't dream of calling themselves Anglican if they weren't pretty committed to the CoE.
And yes, other questions to narrow it all down more can be found. There is nothing to stop anyone who believes this survey to be meaningless and misleading to raise a few thousand pounds and to commission a different one from a reputable organisation. I suspect the results would be no different.
But of course Anglicanism is the established church of England. So the line between "members" and "the general public" is not easily drawn.
If your response is, "established for how much longer?" then I would agree.
The Church of England has to decide whether it will remain established or discriminatory. It can't be both for much longer.
NJ and cseitz: If you look at the third page of the full results for Anglicans in England you will see a column for those currently active/attending an Anglican church. The figures are virtually identical to those who simply self-identify as Anglicans.
I don't think this is "theology by opinion poll". What it demonstrates to me is that, despite the very strong position the Archbishops have taken and the Bishops have gone along with, the identical methodology in 2013 and 2016 shows that those who claim membership of the organisation they lead are going in the opposite direction. The age effect is startling, but the shift since 2013 is too large to be explained by people being three years older---people in every age group must have changed their view. The church leadership's lead is not leading anyone.
'It has been pointed out that a very small percentage of those polled indicated they were regular church-goers'
Well whoever pointed that out wasn't reading the survey. The survey didn't ask people about their frequency of church attendance regular, irregular or not at all. It asked them to self-identify their religious affiliation (or none). So that assertion cannot be made on the evidence presented.
The comparison with the US is not really a good one either: for better or worse, whether they hog the pews every Sunday or go rarely, for many people in England the Church of England is their church, by virtue of its peculiar national estsblished character. It's not just another denomination in a free for all marketplace. The Church of England should never be considered the preserve or property of its more zealous members, it is very much a 'national' church.
On an aside, there's no reason to think that the opinions of 'regular' churchgoers about equal marriage would be any different to those of irregular attendees. My (purely anecdotal ) experience suggests that even in the conservative churches, those in the pews are much more supportive of their LGBT brothers and sisters than those those in the pulpit.
Erika--I understand your (erastian) point, but find the evaluation by Ian Paul more compelling. Only a very small portion polled identified themselves as active Christians via church attendance.
If you are going to say the entire population of England are members of the parishes in which they live, and then say as well that their view as active Christians is relevant, that will be a sword that cuts both ways. Most of the nominal group likely find establishment and the Christian faith both irrelevant.
Many seem to think this poll unreliable because of who comissioned it. It seems that Peter Ould is the source of the 'hardly any regular churchgoers' line. Entirely neutral there then.
What Mr Ould seems to have done is something like this (figures I quote are not exact but approximate for ease of demonstration).
20 per cent of those in this survey said they were Anglican.
Other surveys say that only 1 per cent of the population attends a C of E service each Sunday.
Therefore if the Yougov survey had been accurate, only 1 per cent not 20 should have said they were Anglicans, therefore 95 per cent of those who said they were Anglicans and support equal marriage are not regular churchgoers (and can by implication be ignored.)
I would say Mr Ould's argument rests on unsupportable assumptions and non sequiturs, not least of which is that only weekly attendees can be considered regular churchgoers, or that the 1 million who attend the C of E on any given Sunday are the same 1 million the next Sunday.
Perhaps my memory is not what it was, but I'm not sure I remember all this picking apart of survey methods and analyses when the results were going the other way...
I am pretty sure that not many under 35 year olds stating an affiliation with the CoE are mere nominal Christians. In that context it's really helpful to listen to Linda Woodhead's 45 minute lecture on Why no religion is the new religion (poor sound quality but worth persevering).
In any case, what we have here is the vast majority of young people in this country who still have a sense of belonging to the CoE not agreeing with its position on same sex relationships.
1. If this majority is reflected within our evangelical churches, it's only a matter of time until they change.
2. If this reflects the profile of the people we're trying to reach, we have to ask serious questions about whether we're currently able to do so. Stating the same thing more clearly won't help.
3. We can simply dismiss the survey and ignore its findings and continue what we've done so far. One would assume that we will do it with the same results we had so far (Linda Woodhead's lecture is instructive here and shows where this will end, at least in Britain).
It would be much more mature to engage with what the survey suggests and think about what we could do next.
Erika, you said '2. If this reflects the profile of the people we're trying to reach, we have to ask serious questions about whether we're currently able to do so. Stating the same thing more clearly won't help.'
I find this a rather unbelievable statement. Do we really envision Jesus saying to his first missionaries, 'Guys, if we're going to have any hope of reaching this generation, we're going to have to eliminate from our message anything that sharply contradicts the ethical standards they already believe in'?
Reading the posts on Thinking Anglicans over the last few years, I'm beginning to think that the most important division in worldwide Anglicanism is not between north and south, liberal and conservative, evangelical and Anglo-Catholic. It's between those who believe in the the concept of an established church (which feels itself obliged to reflect the beliefs and ethical standards of the majority of the people it claims as members, most of whom do not attend its services), and those who believe that the church is called to be a gathered community whose first loyalty is to live the new life of the Kingdom of God, whether it's popular or not.
All this busy spinning, simply to hide from what your hearts already know; God found the churches deaf, so He has given leadership, vision and courage to the greater secular community to do His will and as warning to the failed faith institutions!
you know that I believe that Jesus brought a message of love and hope, whereas conservative theology on same sex relationships brings harm and death. Literally. To equate the two is to miss reality completely.
But my main point was a strategic one.
Whether we think that people "ought" to hear our message on same sex relationships or not - they clearly don't. And repeating what we've done so far to an ever decreasing number of listeners isn't going to change that.
If conservatives really want the church to thrive and to remain opposed to gay relationships, they have to think of a new strategy.
It would have to be one with an massively improved pastoral component so that suicides, mental health problems etc among lgbt people in our churches would decrease considerably and that people felt genuinely welcome and supported.
That is a dangerous tack for many conservatives, because once you really engage with the gay people in your midst it becomes harder and harder to remain thoroughly opposed.
I'm glad this isn't my problem to solve!
NJ - you assume that there are 1 million hard core anglicans who attend each week.
Not that many of our local congregation do attend each and every week; some do; many come two or three Sundays out of five, many more will be present 1 or two weeks out of four, others will come for spells whilst they're under pressure and slacken off when things are easier; some the reverse; some attend with the good weather; some don't because they're out and about; some have loaded working patterns; some deal with frequent absences abroad; and so on.
So our average 75 on a Sunday represent a broader squad of around 100 who would be there at least one week in three, and perhaps 180 who might average just over once a month. Over a three month period there would be around 200-230 people I would not be particularly surprised to see in church on a Sunday. So that 1 million attending figure will possibly mask perhaps 3 million 'regular' and perhaps another couple of million 'occasional'attenders.
All, I suspect, if taking part in a poll, would tick the boxes 'Church of England' and 'active worshipper' if asked.
One curious finding of the poll is that, in the chart breaking down response by religious affiliation (p.3 of the PDF), 100% of Muslims are shown as thinking same-sex marriage is right. Have I misread this?
When, half a life-time ago, I was responsible for presenting and explaining a parish share system which was based on attendances, I used this 'gut-feeling' analysis of the figures:
Congregation of 100
Every week 50
Every two weeks 25
Every four weeks 25
Head count over four weeks total 275 out of the 400 if everyone were there every week.
Over several years, no-one offered any substantial disagreement with this view.
But that was then, and patterns will have changed.
"Do we really envision Jesus saying to his first missionaries, 'Guys, if we're going to have any hope of reaching this generation, we're going to have to eliminate from our message anything that sharply contradicts the ethical standards they already believe in'?"
Tim, your analogy presumes that the contemporary mission field is as unChristian now as it was when Jesus commissioned his disciples!
No, the better question is this: are the values of Jesus now better expressed OUTSIDE the CofE---outside of virtually all Christian churches, and esp their pulpits!---than within them? [A hard question to bear, perhaps, but necessary.]
'Something like same-sex marriages are either intrinsically right or intrinsically wrong' ('Kate').
No one is proposing 'same-sex marriage' (sic); and nor has any government or Church anywhere in the world introduced.
Marriage equality is what being proposed and indeed introduce more and more countries and Churches around the world.
It seems to me, that some uses of the incorrect term are merely sloppy, but others are a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the issue, and undermine the relationships, love and lives of lesbians and gays.
A minority in the British upper chamber resisted marriage equality vociferously in various ways. One of their strategies was to appeal for the creation of a special (separate) relationship for gays alone, to be called 'Unions' or whatever, but intended to with-hold marriage from gay and lesbian couples.
Now we can marry without fear or favour in registry offices, chapels and churches throughout the Great Britain, including military chapels blessed by the Church of England.
When will the Church of England offer this in every parish church ?
'If conservatives really want the church to thrive and to remain opposed to gay relationships, they have to think of a new strategy.
It would have to be one with an massively improved pastoral component so that suicides, mental health problems etc among lgbt people in our churches would decrease considerably and that people felt genuinely welcome and supported.
That is a dangerous tack for many conservatives, because once you really engage with the gay people in your midst it becomes harder and harder to remain thoroughly opposed.'
Erika Baker on Monday, 1 February 2016 at 9:26am
I think this whole post from Erika must be one of the most significant and inspired, brief statements of the needs of our young people, and indeed, all vulnerable lgbt people.
The sentences I quote above go right to the heart of the matter.
Many 'conservatives' give little or no evidence of engaging intellectually and spiritually, from heart and mind - let alone getting out and meeting and serving pastorally the needs of lgbt people. Thus leaving many of us cold, and unconvinced.
Tim. The Quakers are a gathered community seeking to live the vales of the Kingdom. And they were one of the most vociferous in getting the legislation changed to allow them to solemnise same sex marriages.
On accuracy of opinion polls. A few percent one way or the other makes an enormous difference to an election result. But if a poll shows 72% of people in a certain group under 35 holding a particular view and 16% against that can't be anything other than a very large proportion.
Incidentally this is a topic where in general people only change their mind in one direction. Good news for those who think same sex marriage is right and bad news for those who think it is wrong.
Turbulent Priest, you have completely missed my point. What I find disturbing is the idea that if the church finds itself out of step with the general public on a point of ethics, that means it doesn't have a hope of getting its message out and needs to change it to bring it in line with majority opinion.
Whether or not a person agrees with same-sex marriage (as it is described in the header of this post), I think that is a very misleading idea. As C.S. Lewis said years ago, Jesus did not say to his disciples, "Go into all the world and tell it that it is quite right".
When the church is perceived to stick to good morals where society has drifted it will not find it impossible to get its message out. But Linda Woodhead's lecture clearly shows that when a church is perceived to be less moral and less compassionate than society, it finds it increasingly impossible to get its message out.
Its choice then becomes to consider whether society doesn't have a point after all, or to become an increasingly rigid sect,
"What I find disturbing is the idea that if the church finds itself out of step with the general public on a point of ethics, that means it doesn't have a hope of getting its message out and needs to change it to bring it in line with majority opinion."
Tim, by being repugnantly out of step with its target audience here, what 'the church' (read those currently in positions of power) is doing is entirely squandering its possible persuasiveness by destroying its Aristotolean rhetorical ethos, This may be worth it in some circumstances, but when it is for a hotly disputed (within the church) issue on the extreme periphery of the faith that is utter, utter foolishness.
What the church is doing here is acting out a complete antithesis of St Paul's 'all things to all people' argument. It is taking an argument on the level of circumcision or eating meat sacrificed to idols ( i.e. Doctrinal irrelevances) and elevating it to divinity of Christ level
The church is actively, unnecessarily and deliberately coming between people and their Saviour. That is a scandal.
Reply to John Scrivener:
The first file shows 100% of Muslims agreeing with same sex marriage, but there's only one person in the sample.
The second file shows 14% agreeing, from a sample of 62.
Neither did Christ tell His disciples that they were always right and a "real community" as opposed to all those "false communities," as you seem to imply Mr. Chesterton. Christ never told His disciples that they were infallible, or that the Spirit of God's revelation would always and everywhere be limited only to them.
There was no church, then. What you have now is not necessarily Church, even when church. Church may well be what is out "there" where those people who find community on their own, rather than prefabricated in dogmatic walls. The arrogance of the ecclesiastical communities in assuming that they are somehow exempt from outside correction is, frankly, un-christian, and marks the privilege and protection the established church has enjoyed - immoderately, it seems - as corrupting.
Mark Hart - thanks, I was looking at the wrong file - interesting that over a third of Muslim respondents were undecided (admittedly the sample even in the second file is small)
Fr. Andrew wrote: What the church is doing here is acting out a complete antithesis of St Paul's 'all things to all people' argument. It is taking an argument on the level of circumcision or eating meat sacrificed to idols ( i.e. Doctrinal irrelevances) and elevating it to divinity of Christ level
The church is actively, unnecessarily and deliberately coming between people and their Saviour. That is a scandal."
Now that is theology!
Mark Brunson makes some compelling points about what is the church
Church is inescapably tied up with a sense of community - reflecting the eternal community and co-existence of the Holy Trinity.
This may be a seemingly self-contained community, such as a Carmelite convent, or it may be an engagement with a community you live in, many of whom may not even seem to be Christians at all.
I think it is fair to suggest that 'Church' may take many forms. I guess it is wherever the Spirit of God works to draw people together into some degree of shared lives.
It is the very nature of the Godhead to share, to engage, to involve. Contemplative practice can demonstrate that, with the realisation that God shares even God's own awareness, so that the 'God' and 'us' slips away.
After all, that is who the Trinity is - a shared existence and a sharing of awareness and grace and love.
How sad, then, when we exclude categories of people - or avoid sharing the fullness of what we offer to others. Or simply avoid engaging.
And when some local churches actively want to share and engage and accept, and risk sanction for their inclusion.
The Church is community (or should be), as God is community. I suspect that community cannot be limited or contained by ecclesiastical limits, and that the Holy Spirit is wild and operates along the wild frontiers of society, and the intimate, tender outbursts of divine love expressed in human lives.