In the modern West, in Christianity, faith is still primarily about what people believe and how they behave. A person is in a right standing with God when they acknowledge the validity of certain conceptual truths and by living as God wants. The evolution of Christianity from the first to the third centuries and the triumph of Christianity in the fourth century has now become an existential crisis for Christianity. We have endured thirteen centuries of a new kind of religiosity, Nicene orthodoxy. It is at an end, this doctrinaire belief in theological niceties and certainties, the inherited orthodoxy and traditionalism.
People are identifying recent events as signifying the moment when the Church of England’s version of Christianity is being forced to face up to the expectation from within and outside the church that it must become a genuinely inclusive organisation modelling radical equality in gender and relationships in the context of ministry, practice and teaching. Some predict that a tipping point has been reached. What are the significant events that suggest this might be so?
We may think that there is just one version of Christianity that we who are Anglicans share with every denomination and all Christians. Not so - we are living with many versions of Christianity, not just within the variety of denominations, but within each denomination and within the Church of England. Within the church there is an invisible, underground, disconnected, boundary-crossing set of people who are letting go of orthodoxy and dogma. In my dreams this group will reach a critical mass as the reality of the ways in which people are reconfiguring faith becomes more widely known. It’s the great secret of the current decade that dare not speak its name, though it has been emerging for decades.
The ‘war’ that is being fought in the Anglican Communion over human sexuality, Biblical teaching, fundamentalism and the place of LGBTI people in God’s economy is having the opposite effect to that intended by Anglican Mainstream, GAFCON and the other conservative fundamentalist pressure groups. It is having the unintended effect of making people far more interested in one another and is spreading awareness of the presence of homosexuality in the human community. The continuing development of global communications and of a common understanding of the basics of what it is to be human and living in a global community will overcome the present divisions in Christianity around homosexuality. Meanwhile, we have plenty of challenging work to do to speed the coming of that day.
This is the blog it has taken me nearly three weeks to write because I knew that engaging with the hostile energy of the Peter Ould’s blog was futile. Our wisdom, attention, time, and creative energy needs to be focused not on engaging with those defending abusive, hierarchical, dogmatic ways of thinking and acting based on Scripture and an anthropomorphic idea of God but on the divine energy which is always evolving and flowing through creation and inspires people, despite the unfortunate endeavours of the church, to trust their feelings and intuition, marry the person they love, live with the person they choose, and share uninhibitedly the glorious liberty and freedom of creation in which the poor and disenfranchised are tenderly blessed by God, “the internal, the infinite, and unnameable”, to quote my young, wise South African friend Zinana.
In my experience, a paradigm change is taking place in the Church of England, difficult though it is to discern if you look at the central structures of the Church. Change is happening at parish level and in the many friends I have and networks I am part of. Many of my friends have abandoned attendance at or involvement with the Church, despairing of its teaching, worship and leadership and finding it no longer fit for purpose.