On the Changing Attitude Facebook page, a recent post has pointed to a Guardian article about the guidance given to Synod members in their forthcoming Shared Conversations. Comments on this have revealed quite a sharp disagreement between those who are feeling optimistic about change coming in the church, and those who suspect the whole exercise is window-dressing and delaying tactics. A particular concern has been about whether people would encourage young LGBT+ people to offer for ordained ministry in the present climate. Reflecting on the disagreement, I remembered this quotation from St Augustine:
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to make sure they don’t stay that way.”
Much of the disagreement is about history and experience. The angrier comments have behind them a background of mistreatment, experienced discrimination, rejection, disappointment and sometimes, disillusionment with the church and its way of treating LGBT+ people. The optimists are either younger and have less experience of what the church can do to you, or they are allies who have not had direct experience of discrimination.
I don’t think that Christians in either group (not all the comments are from Christians) have a monopoly on faith or hope. I can understand why some of us would not encourage any young LGBT+ people to offer for ordination at the present time. I don’t think I would. But I can remember the power of knowing I have to respond to this call way back in the 1970s, and I don’t think anything, at that point, would have put me off, though, as I was not out to myself at that point let alone anyone else, it is hard to know whether that would have made any difference.
I want to hold on to hope (which perhaps holds on to me more than the other way round). I would love to spare others some of the pain they are going to experience if they go further down that road. But I can’t. All I can do is everything I can to to help move our church towards full inclusion. Some people leave, and I don’t blame them. I can’t deny the unpleasantness, the wrongness or the cruelty of much of what is done to LGBT+people by those who hold power in our church at the moment – but I want all of us who want a better church to hold together, to combine our anger and our courage to bring a new future to birth.