Kicking the can: Lambeth 2022

As I write, my partner and I celebrate our seven-year anniversary. Seven years ago today, we stood in a URC church in Oxford and made promises to ourselves, our friends and importantly for us, to God. We couldn’t do this in our own church where I was Vicar because I would have lost my job, so had to look elsewhere and found love, acceptance and a warm welcome.

Seven years have gone by and in the Church of England very little has changed, and yet everything has changed.

However, the Archbishop of Canterbury last week thinks he’s pulled a blinder.

He’s managed a compromise, to keep the ‘traditional’ bishops happy, those bishops who see us as intrinsically sinful and disordered. He will be breathing a sigh of relief, no doubt.

In reality, nothing really has changed.

Nothing has changed for the communion, which is already split and fractured on cultural and theological lines. Nothing has changed for LGBT+ people in those countries where they are persecuted, beaten and denied basic freedoms. Nothing has changed for those looking for a safe spiritual home in the west either, with the voice of the church sounding just as homophobic, outdated and out of reach as ever it did.

And yet, everything has changed

In the last few years, attitudes have moved dramatically, across all age groups and demographics. Demanding equality is not just a liberal obsession for the Guardian-reading, Waitrose-shopping snowflakes, as many would make out.

In our kids school, a deprived area of North Wales, children are able to express who they are, with more than one friend of my youngest feeling coming our as trans and another, non-binary. These kids are twelve, and seem to have a greater understanding of acceptance, love and freedom, all things Jesus talked about quite a lot, than the church.

As the sun shines in Ffestiniog just as it did in Oxford seven years ago, the church’s storm is in full flow, as we saw at Lambeth. It has not gone away. The argument about how we treat minorities and what we think the bible has to say about folk who are different is, it seems, irreconcilable to the reality of the church and the world today. The repelling nature of the conversations amongst the mitred continues to guarantee the disappearance of the church in daily life accelerated by COVID, the lack of support for parish clergy and falling numbers of those willing to get up on a Sunday morning.

So, yet again, the can has been kicked down the road. For now.

Unlike the ordination of women, which was, eventually seen as the working of the Holy Spirit, full inclusion of LGBT+ people is not.

In fact, quite the opposite.

Folk like me remain disordered and sinful. That much has been reaffirmed. How long until ‘unity at all costs’ is replaced with vision, courage and prophetic leadership? Quite long, I think.

The thing is, I’m not sure I care anymore.

When we said ‘yes’ in 2015, I always thought that one day we would be able to be legally married in church. Now, I couldn’t give a fig. I’ve moved on, and society has largely moved on too.

This latest appeasement is one in a long line of decrees, agreements and statements which skirt around the issue and do nothing to move things forward.

Lambeth 2022 was another missed opportunity, but for now at least, it seems to have achieved one thing. The bishops can still pretend that the communion is intact and that the church has something to say.

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