I was encouraged today, at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to have drawn to my attention John Betjeman’s Septuagesima, which includes:
So other Churches please forgive
Lines on the Church in which I live,
The Church of England of my birth,
The kindest Church to me on earth.
There may be those who like things fully
Argued out, and call you “woolly”;
Ignoring Creeds and Catechism
They say the C. of E.’s “in schism”.
Lines in praise of woolliness… They echoed this morning’s sermon, in which the preacher pointed out that we manage to stay together despite our different views of, and activities associated with, earlier controversial issues like the remarriage of divorced people and the ordination of women, and he ended with the image of the Second Coming and Christ asking what we’re up to at the moment: ‘What are going to say? “Lord, we are confused: should we split? Because we can’t agree on sexuality.” “Pardon? What are you talking about?”‘
I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of summarizing here, but I hope the point comes across. Why is it this issue, not marriage after divorce or the ordination of women, which is presented as the Crunch Issue? Why can’t we apply a bit of Anglican woolliness to it and accept that we don’t agree, and get on with doing the work of Christ in the world? Again, what do we prioritize: truth or unity? In terms of the first issue, marriage after divorce, I just get on with it, although if my husband was testing his call to ordained ministry and came up against an objection to him offering himself because he’s been married before, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so relaxed. I probably need to go back to read the debates on this older issue (which now feels like a non-issue) to remind myself of how it played out at the time… Back to Google!