I feel sad

I feel really sad just now about the state of the Episcopal Church. I’ve just been reading the BBC News, the Scottish Anglican Network, and the Changing Attitudes Scotland websites about the current goings on. I also watched the Reporting Scotland article streamed in RealMedia from their website too. And I just feel sad that there is such upset at the moment, at a time when we should be rejoicing about the fantastic news about Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.

On one side of the argument the evangelicals are claiming that they have the truth, that they are right and the liberals are destroying the orthodoxy of the Church, by teaching something that is not biblical. It feels at times as though the evangelicals are trying to maintain the purity of the faith and protect God from these evil human beings who might defile and spoil God.

On the other hand the liberals are saying, hey! what’s all the fuss about? The ordination of gay clergy in long-term, loving relationship isn’t tearing apart the church, surely it’s affirming something that is good (love). Surely it is good to open up God’s love to all his people, wasn’t Jesus about breaking down barriers?

You know, I really think that neither party holds the whole truth. (Three sides to every story, and all that.) The truth will only come through lovingly listening to one another and holding one another, not with the attitude “I’m right! I have the answer”, but with an attitude of prayer and respect that the Holy Spirit does move and inspire us, and open to being surprised and challenged by God.

I liked what Rowan Williams said in the “Leader” article in this month’s Third Way magazine (which I suspect was taken from a speech he made elsewhere):

… there are no clean breaks in the Body of Christ. What is it for the Church to be a truly counter-cultural community? It may be for the Church to take a firm stand against the erosion of objective morality and biblical truth, indeed I believe that this is part of it. It may be for the Church to act courageously on behalf of those who are oppressed or marginalised. Again I believe that is so. But isn’t it the ultimate distinctive counter-cultural fact about the Church our capacity to live sacrificially for the sake of each other? How we do that, Windsor doesn’t tell us. Only the Holy Spirit does.

You know what else upsets me? With all this media attention the Scottish Episcopal website has been listed on a number of third-party sites, such as the BBC News one. I’m so embarrassed that we have such a terrible site, and that hundreds of other people will be looking at it, having clicked there from the BBC.

I know, I know … in the midst of all this upset being worried about how the website looks is a bit like standing on the Titanic as it is hurtling towards the iceberg and thinking “Oh, blast! I didn’t polish my shoes!” But I take pride in well-written websites. (Those that know me will know that I’ve been trying to work to get the site updated / rewritten).

If it is your practice, please pray for us in the Scottish Episcopal Church. It’s a small church, and I have good friends on both sides of the potential divide. Over many years I have worshipped in both evangelical and liberal congregations and have recognised a great deal that one can teach the other. I pray most fervently that we may be able to live together and continue the dialogue.

Anyway, I’m on post-Easter holiday … I should be in bed (it’s 1 am), and not thinking or writing about work, and reading my current book “Gay Christians: A Moral Dilemma” by Peter Coleman (1989). (Which I got back recently from a friend: I was visiting his house and saw it on his bookshelf. Oh! I had that book … Oh! it IS my book! Do you mind if I have that back?)

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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