Looking like Jesus

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night in a hot sweat realising what you have done? ‘Why did I do that?’ ‘Why did I say that?’ ‘What possessed me?’ It seemed that for some in the Synod chamber yesterday they had been having that very feeling!  Back in July 2017 in the Synod meeting in York there were two memorable debates that really encouraged me.  One was on banning Conversion Therapy in churches – the practice believed in by some that you can ‘convert’ someone from one sexual orientation to another – and the other was welcoming members of the transgender community into our churches.  Both of these motions were passed by Synod.

Fluent in the language of love

Truth revealed on the South Bank

But the one on trans people was about even more than simply welcoming.  There was a call to provide some liturgical way to help people mark the transition into their new identity and to enable the congregation to recognise and welcome them.  The Synod asked the House of Bishops to consider all of this.

So the House of Bishops have considered it and have issued some Pastoral Guidance which suggest that clergy can use the provisions already in existence in Common Worship around the ‘Renewal of Baptismal Promises’ to mark a persons transition and new identity.  Some people were sad that no new liturgy was created but, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting the bishops to do that.  But the guidance provided does say

It is important that the occasion should have a celebratory character

and opens with the statement

The Church of England welcomes and encourages the unconditional affirmation
of trans people, equally with all people, within the body of Christ, and rejoices in
the diversity of that body into which all Christians have been baptized by one
Spirit.

So, I mentioned yesterday that there were a record number of Questions submitted and that over 30 of them were about trans people and the churches response.  What we witnessed in Synod during Questions I found disturbing.  It felt like a bullying, abusive onslaught from a group of Synod members who were infuriated with what had happened after that decision in all three Houses back in 2017 and who were determined to catch out the bishops responding to Questions. This was not Synod at its best.

In many ways those of us sitting there witnessing all of this have seen the opponents play all their cards at once and so we know what it is that we are still facing on the complex issues of gender and sexuality.  This will all feed into whatever finally emerges from the ‘Living in Love and Faith’ process. We must never be complacent about what we face on these issues.

Ironically the Archbishop in his Presidential Address in the afternoon had said two powerful things.  One was that we should ‘speak the language of love more fluently’ and the other that ‘We can’t talk about Jesus without looking like Jesus.’ I saw neither of those things as we listened to those aggressive questions, neither the fluency of love nor a Jesus-like resemblance.

Looking like Jesus means picking up those old wristbands again, you know the ones with ‘WWJD’ – ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ The answer for me is in the gospels and all around that fluent articulation of love that we find there and that amazing verse so loved by evangelicals

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ (John 3.16)

As Jesus says these words to Nicodemus we realise the full impact of salvation, for every person, whoever they are, however they identify, however they describe themselves, wherever they are on their journey.  Jesus celebrates that, that is what Jesus is like, that is what Jesus looks like and that is what the church needs to look like, speaking fluently the language of love, if we are to be the church of Jesus.

Loving God
forgive us when we disfigure the face of Jesus,
when we speak more fluently
the language of hate
than the language of love.
Amen.

Previous Post
Comments are closed.
Holy Land

A pilgrimage for returning pilgrims

My Lent Diary

A journey from ashes to a garden

In the Steps of Martin Luther

A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017

sabbaticalthoughtsblog.wordpress.com/

Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015

LIVING GOD

Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark

%d bloggers like this: