Thursday, 1 March 2012

Fighting for People over Theology

The world of the Church of England is peppered with great collisions of people, all fighting for a particular corner. Last week I recieved not one, but two questionnaires spammed to me by a Vicar himself a member of the Evangelical Alliance (who are not right set on the issue of 'gay marriage' [sic]). It would be fair to say that they really don't like the idea at all, not one little bit, no. 

Fine. A view is a view and an opinion is an opinion. I have several. 

Flit across to the next table and you will find good people becoming quite narky about a document. It is becoming increasingly important where you stand (or sit) on this issue, and which fancy website you will subscribe to. Many of these people are Vicars. 

On the next table, there is yet another scuffle concerning the consecration of ladies as bishops - and that debate is causing much aggro between people of the two opposing sides. In some ways, you are in or you can sod off - from either side of the proverbial coin. Many of those involved in that debate are Vicars. 

Last year, the whole lady-issue caused many people to re-evaluate their basic sacramental theology in a knee-jerk reaction to breasts in cassocks and change teams. Many of them were Vicars (or bishops), and did what to my mind was a terrible thing, and ripped entire parishes from top to bottom as they did their little flit with half the congregation (sod the remaining lot - they didn't agree with us anyway). 

Once again I say - we all have opinions. We have a right to them and we are free to express them to a level appropriate to our context. But this is where my concern comes to light. When we were ordained, did we agree to fight for causes over people, or were we called and ordained to minister to people despite the causes and opinions that they hold? Were we called to feed all the sheep, or just the ones whose wool we prefer? Before anyone tells me that the differing views of others doesn't mean that they love them any less, let them hold their tongue before they fork it. They may well be telling a porky-pie, if we are deeply and truly honest. 

I sort of wonder whether priests/ministers are not called to rise above all this stuff, just a little, and put personal opinion aside in favour of service. I am sure that in Downton Abbey Mr Carson wouldn't enjoy all the meals he is called to serve - but it is his job to put the food on the table. He is entitled to his view, and to express it - in the right place. Needless to say, he would be ill-advised to refuse to serve it. 

My job, I believe, is to he there for anyone and everyone as they have need for my service. If I am too busy locking thuribles or NIVs with other clergy, I would fail in that. My job is to pray for the debate, that God's will be done - not to pick up a stone and throw it. 

Just saying. 


  1. Thank you David. It's always good to be aware of debates about this or that, but sometimes holding your tongue (or biting it) can be the best contribution made to a debate.

    As you say, the Priest is called to serve all of God's people, perhaps God's people need reminding of that now and again.

    All of the issues raised remain a distraction from the real issues facing the Church and the World and certainly handicap the message of Good News being spread, while we are being bad news within the Church.

  2. Amen. That's why as an ordinand I have refused to join any of the societies which speak to me of a divided church.

  3. On the whole I agree David - although it is a little tricky to minister as a priest to people who don't agree that you are a priest. So I'd love to rise above the debate, but being inherently a subject of debate makes rising above tricky. So I'll carry on doing my best to love God, and love my neighbour as I love myself - which is the closest I can get to rising above.

  4. Thanks again for your comments.

    Claire, you are right to put what you have, as from time to time I have to be reminded that as a heterosexual male I am rarely the focus of any disagreement (of any real consequence at least). My own feeling on your comment is that you are an embodiment of why women should be ordained. As I have said In other places, if we get past the biological and into the worthiness stakes - the debate would be very different for all of us.

  5. With thanks to Jonathan for the aching body part of the day ...

    We pray Lord your healing love upon him.

  6. You see, you can be as combative as the rest of us. All you needed was a bit of encouragement from a seasoned campaigner like myself.

    Now, stop it with the holiness nonsense and get back to the front line soldier!

  7. Hahahaha!

    I am the original balshy git. Hmmm - you may have a point though!


  8. Excellent points - when we get entangled in party spirit our diaconate is kaput.



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