On Sunday, an ordained Anglican clergyman preached a short sermon in the Church of England’s national service. Apparently, this is controversial!?
In a rather over-blown attempt to make a story out of a relatively run-of-the-mill event, Pink News ran the headline ‘Church of England invites professor who thinks LGBT+ Pride is ‘endangering to the soul’ to give official sermon’.
This was a secular interpretation of a rather muddled set of objections to this clergyman doing his thing. But what seems rather worse is the way professing Anglicans have been objecting to the news that a C of E vicar has conducted a C of E online service.
There are two objections - one is Lee’s view on women in leadership and the other are some comments he’s made about same-sex marriage/relationships in the context of the Lord’s Supper. You may disagree with one (or both) of these positions, but they are legitimate views which the Church of England is committed to making room for.
Neither of these theological positions are grounds to censor a vicar from doing his job.
Lee and the Church Society (who have kindly let this egalitarian non-Anglican attend their conference, and write book reviews for their journal – thanks) are not in favour of female ordination. That is at present the minority opinion in the Church of England – which is why the Church has come up with the Five Guiding Principles. One of these states: "Since those within the Church of England who, on grounds of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests continue to be within the spectrum of teaching and tradition of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England remains committed to enabling them to flourish within its life and structures."
If the present state of play is anything to go by, it is a stretch to believe that any future similar plan for difference over same-sex marriage will be remotely successful.
It surely isn't much of a stretch to argue 'mutual flourishing' must include allowing Gatiss to speak at a Church of England service. I am - to put it mildly - thoroughly bemused that lots of people are cross that Rev Lee Gatiss led and preached in the service.
No one is forcing anyone to be part of the Church of England (thank God!). But if you are, it seems to me that you can’t really complain about this sort of thing. If some folk on Twitter honestly ‘can’t deal’ with this then there are many ecclesial options available to them.
Beyond what I’d call the inherent illiberalism of many, I am genuinely baffled when people within the church of England display such basic ignorance of the Church's historic and current teaching and the idea that someone who holds to it might be doing ministry. Heaven’s going to be a real shock!
Thomas Creedy works in Christian publishing and serves as theologian at large at the south west London vineyard. He blogs regularly at thomascreedy.co.uk and is the author of the forthcoming short book Sex for Everyone?
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