The Guardian reports that up to 150 clergy might walk out of the Church of Scotland because they are unable to accept the bidding of the Holy Spirit. Now, Newspapers love this kind of reporting because it appears to be such a disaster – we are constantly reading about how the Church of England is about to fracture (usually over sex, ’twas ever thus); but the Church of Scotland should stand firm in the face of such (usually idle) threats.
I have learnt the hard way to accept that not everyone travels in the same direction and at the same speed and sometimes the Holy Spirit can be a relentless taskmistress. This means that some parting of the ways are inevitable and the unity which Christ himself prayed for was unity of purpose, not of the means. We are all individuals after all, and we group together as the people of God in common purpose and by different means. Paul and his companions set off in different directions after they disagreed, and the Gospel was further proclaimed…
This means that if someone is unable to deal with the issue at hand: the sexuality of their priests, the gender of their bishops, the morality of money, the style and substance of their Vicar; then they should be allowed with grace to move onto wherever God calls them.
I have learnt that the best thing is to always accept a resignation if it is tendered or threatened – especially if it is threatened. Nothing I can say or do will change the reason why the threat was made in the first place; and I believe that once one has done this, then it is an irrevocable position.
No-one: not me, or the Churchwardens or the Treasurer or the Organist, or Mrs Jones in the middle pew is irreplacable to a parish. It may change (and, praise God, it will usually change for the better) as a result of the leaving of an individual or group or faction, but if people are unhappy now, they will be unhappy in the future and history moves us forward, not backwards.
We were threatened that the Ordinariate would be an avalanche of schism, but it turned out to be a very light snowfall. We waved goodbye and blessed the few (usually difficult individuals) who crossed the Tiber. We made comparatively little fuss when the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament gave most of our Anglican money to pay their Stipends for a while (when we here could have done with a new Monstrance as well…), and we will quietly receive them back when they have had enough of playing Roman. In the same way, when the Southern Cone threatens to take its ball home, we should bless them and allow them to move on, and allow the majority of the Church of England, Canada and USA follow where the Holy Spirit leads us. We have voted overwhelmingly for Women Bishops; if we were brave enough to actually ask the Dioceses or even more importantly the Parishes what they thought of their gay clergy, gay congregation or gay anything really then they would not be anti, just quietly affirming, gently supportive and frankly not really fussed by it. The Church of England is liberal with a small ‘l’ and we should celebrate that.
So, my dear friends north of the border, do what your conscience dictates and the Holy Spirit suggests; if that relaxes your view of sexuality then let it, and pray that the Church of England soon realises the same thing. Ignore those who threaten to resign and bless them on their way if they do (but don’t let them take their buildings or their Charitable funds with them), and let us concentrate on the real task at hand – to proclaim the Resurrection.