"The Church of England needs to undergo a major 'culture shift'... Laity and clergy should view themselves as equal partners in the task of evangelising the nation..."
Yes a major cultural shift is needed... but what message does the Church send out to the public when it refuses to endorse anything but heterosexuality?
It's like trying to fight a boxing match with one hand tied behind your back. For every one person you manage to engage, five or ten don't want to know, because of prejudice.
I'd agree that it's great to encourage (and value) lay ministry, but the actual product is toxic in many people's minds, and we run the risk of scaring off 5 people for every 1 we try to attract.
We do indeed need a change of culture.
Yes, indeed. A real culture change is needed, so that all of God's children may be acknowledged to be equally precious in the sight of God AND of His Church! No artificial barriers on account of gender or sexuality.
evangelizing the nation implies reaching out to and serving all people in all communities - indeed this is what a national and established church should be doing. Susannah is correct the cultural change must be one that moves the church from exclusivity at worst and a weak from of tolerance for certain groups to one of radical inclusivity. The cultural change must start in the heart and in the heart of the institution.
I want inclusivity and I want the culture change others do here.
But I know of Christians and churches doing radical work and making a real impact in communities who nevertheless on sexuality are conservative. So no. It is an issue I care deeply about but I don't accept it is the only measure people recognise as validating Christian faith.
If implemented, even only in part, 'Setting God's People Free' could radically change the way that churches catechise and equip lay people for ministry, and what we see as 'ministry' in the first place. I'd be interested to see comments from people who've read it and engaged with it.
"I want inclusivity and I want the culture change others do here.
But I know of Christians and churches doing radical work and making a real impact in communities who nevertheless on sexuality are conservative. So no. It is an issue I care deeply about but I don't accept it is the only measure people recognise as validating Christian faith."
Evangelism should not be our reason for inclusively, but I think you are wrong. It is a lowest common denominator effect. People will judge the Church on its weakest area - and maybe they are right to do so.
Kate I did not mention evangelism did I? I had in mind Christians working in areas of poverty, domestic violence/abuse and racism among other things. I am not prepared to grade social evils on a moral league table of importance. Evil is evil. But my point was that a conservative approach to same sex relationships does not automatically mean zero social conscience.
Of course a conservative approach to same sex marriage does not automatically mean a zero social conscience. Indeed there are individual Christians who oppose same sex marriage with strong and active social consciences. But same sex marriage is an area where the Church of England is behind secular society in terms of social conscience and that badly impacts the credibility of Anglicanism in England.
I agree with Kate on this one - that while of course Christians who are 'conservative' on human sexuality issues may have a fantastic sense of social justice in other areas (and my experience of 36 years of evangelical church tells me so)... nevertheless, the way the Church lags behind society on the sexuality issue makes it seem, to be honest, bizarre.
And that then leads people to take other (and maybe valid) claims of the Church less seriously, because... people don't usually think deep, they are more likely to feel deep, and the reactionary attitudes to gay and lesbian sex cause upset and offence to many reasonable people.
It's true that 'conservative' churches will also draw people in through their love and their faith, but if we look at the figures nationwide, even if the Church IS attracting some people (not least to evangelical churches) it is repelling far more people, or else people just don't feel the Church worldview is relevant to them... or to their gay sons, their lesbian daughters, their LGBT workmates.
The intransigence of conservative Christians on human sexuality issues is an evangelistic disaster. It's not the only reason so many people have switched off the Christian message, but it is certainly a significant and grievous one.
Non-Christians take a more generous and magnanimous view of non-heterosexual relationships, and through that opening up have even come to celebrate and affirm them.
In effect, lay people are being asked to join with clerics in delivering a message which, fairly or unfairly, a growing number of reasonable truth-seekers regard as toxic and discriminatory. It may be a case of 'for every 1 who's converted to conservative Christianity, 5 more are put off or repelled.
So even if conservative churches attract more people than the liberal church down the road, the net outcome may actually be a loss of 5 people for every 1 they gain. Most people in the UK are simply not buying into the conservative evangelical message or its underlying paradigms.
For 36 years my home church has been an evangelical church which has nurtured my children, and served so many people with love. I respect that love and faithfulness. Love is a good end in itself. I am not trying to alienate, but I think there is a deep-seated problem.
"what message does the Church send out to the public when it refuses to endorse anything but heterosexuality?"
I hope the Church does what Jesus did and accepts *everyone* regardless of who they are or what they've done... and calls *everyone* to follow Him. He taught that to follow Him means to love and care for *everyone* (good or bad, right of wrong - even social conservatives), to build strong close relationships (same-sex and opposite sex), and to be committed to each other. But He also taught that sex outside marriage is always wrong - no matter who it is with - same-sex or opposite sex.
So much of what He taught is "behind secular society"!! But maybe secular society is just wrong...
I agree to an extent. A large part of the problem is that most Anglican ministers fail to set a proper example by failing to remain single and celibate. They set up an expectation of marriage, sex and family life that lay Anglicans then want too. There are debates within Catholicism about same sex relationships but they are less heated because the Catholic Church is universally conservative. In Anglicanism, ministers marry, couples divorce and remarry, contraception is seen positively, even abortion is not universally condemned but the one exception is same sex marriage. That clearly is going to appear to most lay people to be homophobic not theological conservatism.
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