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.