"Why? What wrong has he done?" - St Bride's: Reflection

St Bride's: Sermons

"Why? What wrong has he done?"

"Crucify him!" the crowd shouted. "Why? What wrong has he done?" asked Pilate. But they shouted even louder, "Crucify him!"
(Mark 15:14)

There are just sufficient similarities between these words and the strident cries of hard-line Conservative Evangelicals within the Church of England calling for the removal of Canon Jeffrey John, Bishop-designate of Reading, to make us all feel extremely uncomfortable, ashamed and saddened.

After all, what had he done? He measured up to all the criteria which the church required of him, and he was in a stable long-standing and celibate relationship at the time of his preferment. The whole church must feel great respect for the way he has conducted himself, and sorrow that he has been placed in such an impossible position. The Church of England has been made to look foolish, homophobic and bigoted in the eyes of the world, the authority of the new Archbishop of Canterbury has been undermined, and positions in the ongoing debate about human sexuality have become more entrenched than ever.

Worst of all, this obsession with sexuality deflects attention both from the real good the Church is doing, and the pressing issues it should be addressing, from third world debt to genetic manipulation.

So after crucifixion, is there hope of resurrection? Only if the Church of England now engages in a serious process of discussion and discernment about the complex issues involved and how moral understanding develops over the process of time. We need time to study the follow-up document to the 1991 report "Issues in Human Sexuality" which will be published in the autumn, and a period of prayerful reflection, as Archbishop Rowan Williams has urged. The whole church needs to be involved in this process so that moderate church members do not feel hijacked by decisions taken behind closed doors, and Christians can come to a decision in community through the synodical structures of the church. Only then will the major part of society, which must have been somewhat bemused by what has happened over the past few weeks, begin to take the Church of England seriously again.

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