Prayer is a two-way process. We are making something of the Mystery of God in our prayer and prayer is making something of the Mystery of God in us. At least, this is what can happen when it is ‘true’ prayer, remembering Ken Leech’s phrase, prayer that is truly open and radical, taking risks, allowing the Mystery we call God to impact us, our preconceptions and prejudices, our emotions and energies.
My spiritual director and I are the same age and both spent our childhoods in the diocese of Southwark. In our conversation on Wednesday, we discovered that we had both, in our teens, worked out that anything in the Bible that didn’t ring true to the ideas about God that had to be true had to be rejected – so much else in the Bible being unbelievable or downright un-Christian. I was hugely relieved when Honest to God was published to discover a bishop confirming that I wasn’t a heretic nor totally at odds with current church teaching. That was fifty four years ago. The conflict is still running through me.
The Church of England is unfit for the purpose for which it primarily exists – to witness to the unconditional, infinite, intimate love of God and embody the teaching of Jesus that all are called to life, life in all its fullness, and to be open to grace, to the presence of spirit in all creation. Because the church has such an inadequate and often flawed understanding of its core purpose, it is that at the moment, it has become systemically abusive, and I mean the whole institution, from bishops and archbishops, the House of Bishops, the Archbishops’ Council, to suffragan bishops and archdeacons and rural deans, to dioceses and deaneries and parishes and parish clergy and lay leaders and volunteers. The church is unfit for purpose because it fails to place witness to the unconditional love of God at the front and centre of teaching and mission.