Here I stand. I can do no other. Except, you know, I can. I have always promised myself that, if it came to it, I would. That, if the Church of England did something so egregious that I could no longer countenance belonging to it, I would leave. That if it came to a choice between the Church and the Kingdom, I would choose the Kingdom.
And yet here I stand.
It is not that the Church has failed to do anything egregious enough. On the contrary; it feels as if it has been doing it every day of this year. Today’s news alone (assuming for the moment that there was more to the whole thing than vicious rumour) was more than enough to make me wonder. The worst of it? I wasn’t surprised – just very, very disappointed.
Why do I not go down the steps and cross two streets to the Friends’ Meeting House? I have thought about it, believe me. Have I become one of those people who only goes to church for the music? (No. I’m married to one, so I can tell the difference. He keeps saying he will post about this.) Here I stand. But it’s not as if I can do no other. There are plenty of other options.
Why don’t I?
First things first. My church isn’t going anywhere. And my church has a poster outside that reads:
Here we preach the inclusive gospel of Jesus Christ.
This means you may be mixing with tax collectors, sinners, adulterers, hypocrites, Greeks, Jews, women as well as men, female and male priests, homosexuals, lesbians, the disabled, dying, thieves and other sinners; white people, black people, Asians, and people from other races; Muslims, Bishops, bigots, people of other faiths, strangers from Rome and Nigeria, heretics, etc., etc.; and yes even you, dear guest, are most welcome
in fact anyone like those who Jesus mixed with.
So beware, this is not a private club.
WELCOME TO ALL!
It would be cutting off my nose to spite my face to leave such a fabulous, supportive, spiritual community simply because of a real or perceived shortage of vertebrae in Lambeth or real or perceived shit-stirring in Gafconville.
So here we stand. Why don’t we move? Because we don’t see why we should have to. We believe in a Church that asks people in, not one that turns them away. Because we don’t see why the party that wants to turn people away should have the casting vote in a faith that welcomes strangers. Because we are not prepared to move over to accommodate people who will then spread their knees out to occupy the entire bench, and allow only those who are Like Them to sit down.
But it is more than that: we believe that we should not. We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church – and we, who believe that all should be invited in, are going to be neither the ones who leave it nor the ones who hold it to ransom by threatening to leave it. We will not leave, because we believe that we are welcome as we are.
And then there is this: for as long as I remain in the Church of England, I know that there is one person in the Church of England who will welcome LGBTQ people into it. For as long as my church remains in the Church of England, I know that there is one parish in the Anglican Communion that will display the message that ends ‘WELCOME TO ALL!’. And if we leave, who will do that? Or, rather, if we leave, why should others stay?
There are people who do not like the way I think, the way I love, the way my faith is. They are pushing me, and those who think like me, and love like me, and whose faith works the way that mine does; they are pushing us to leave. But, so far as I can discern, no one is calling me to leave, and that makes all the difference.
Here I stand.