Saying do not worry, doesn’t seem to help.
considering this in light of Living Christ’s Story and all that that
means and what that asks of us, we do find ourselves, placing our
worries in the bigger framework that Jesus’ life and teaching offers in
this very passage from the Sermon on the Mount, which is, ‘Seek first
the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6. 33). Seek first the first priorities of
the kingdom: peace, unity, truth and goodness.
And for us
personally, as followers of Jesus in all of the muddle that is life, we
need to ask ourselves, ‘Lord, how can I be someone who seeks your
Kingdom, who hungers and thirsts for what is right?’
So first of
all, let me say thank you to all of you, and through you to the
parishes, chaplaincies, deaneries that you serve, for your continued
engagement with Living Christ’s Story. The stories we are hearing from
the diocese are such positive stories of how change is beginning to take
shape in many places. We have a long way to go, but I am encouraged
that we are journeying there together, and we continue to listen to
where Christ is calling us.
This won’t necessarily take the
worries away, but we commit to the priorities God has laid upon us to
grow in Christlikeness, to become ourselves more like Christ, to reach
out to people, to the thousands of people in our diocese who do not yet
know Christ, to grow churches of missionary disciples that are younger
and more diverse. Just think in the past year of the changes we've made
through setting up a racial justice group, having a racial justice
commission, and just last week I was speaking with a priest in the
diocese, who is keen to develop work with a very neglected community,
the Gypsy, Roma Traveller Community and then of course, to transform our
finances and structures, to build God’s kingdom in the world of our
parishes and our diocese.
And please note, as I'm sure you'll
hear more about later, our calling to share the Christian faith with
children, families and young people and through our schools, this is
beginning to take a more central place in our hopes and in our plans.
transformational change takes time, energy and resources. We have much
more to do in the coming months. This will require us to continually
monitor the progress and impact of these projects that are already
underway and some that will need adapting as we learn from this work.
And, we intend to communicate more frequently and in more detail about
what is happening, not only to keep the diocese informed, but I hope,
because I believe this is what God wants, to create a sense of
excitement and momentum about what we are doing, because the work of the
gospel is exciting. It is so exciting to see people coming to faith in
Jesus Christ, as I've had the privilege of seeing just in these past
couple of months. I'm particularly thinking of a visit to Humber prison,
where the amazing work of the chaplaincy there, is seeing prisoners
coming to faith. I'm thinking of a confirmation in Thirsk, where I met
young adults who have come to faith. This is all very good news. And
there are things to celebrate amidst the challenges and the worries. And
we do want every parish and every person to be involved.
then turn to the worries, concerns and opportunities that surround the
Living in Love and Faith process and do my best to explain a bit about
what the General Synod did and didn't decide this week, since some of
the press reports have been a little less than helpful.
amended motion that was eventually passed on Wednesday after a long and
often painful debate as different conscientiously held views were
explained and exchanged noted the progress made since the February Synod
which asked the House of Bishops to find ways of commending the Prayers
of Love and Faith alongside a number of other commitments, not least a
heartfelt declaration of repentance for the prejudice and exclusion many
LGBTQIA+ people had experienced and sadly sometimes continue to
experience in the church. Nothing has yet changed or been introduced,
but ways forward and a path to follow is being mapped out. That’s really
what this Synod was about.
In particular, what will happen next
is that the prayers themselves will be commended for use, either
privately and pastorally with same-sex couples, or as part of an
existing or regular service in church, but standalone services, i.e.
that bit of LLF which has received the most publicity, and probably
where the greatest disagreement lies, will be subject to a process of
authorisation under Canon B2, which would mean that in order to receive
final authorisation, there would need to be a two thirds majority in
favour in each of the three synodical houses – bishops, clergy, laity.
up to that vote, there will probably be a period of experimentation
under Canon B5A. This is the canon allows individual parishes that want
to, that opt in, to apply to be able to use material on an experimental
basis for a fixed period, at the end of which, Synod considers whether
to extend the authorization under B2. That’s’ the vote requiring the two
thirds majorities. Doing it this way will be useful way both gauging
the feeling of the Church, but also give time to properly consider
exactly what sort of pastoral reassurance and provision will be
necessary to honour those who in good conscience won't be able to
support these developments. Again, I want you to know that I am very
committed to ensuring this happens well in the Diocese of York, but also
for the whole Church of England, as are my colleagues.
pastoral guidance concerning what this means for ordinands and clergy,
particularly over whether they could be permitted to enter into same-sex
marriages themselves is still a work in progress and wasn't really
discussed at this synod. But it will be forthcoming in the early part of
Clergy and parishes in the diocese will be receiving a
letter about Synod’s decisions next week, explaining what has happened
in a bit more detail.
For some parts of our diocese, I know that
LLF is proving deeply troubling, and I want here to express my gratitude
to those who arranged the meeting for me in Hull a couple of months
ago, where, along with Bishop Eleanor, I was able to meet with a large
group of people and hear those concerns firsthand. It was a sometimes
difficult evening, but a really good evening. Thank you to those who
organised that and who were present.
However, I am also aware of
those who long to be able to offer Prayers of Love and Faith to same-sex
couples. Although the progress towards this for them feels slow, I hope
that everyone in the diocese will understand that our commitment to
each other within the body of Christ, and therefore our commitment to
those with whom we disagree on things like this, requires us, wherever
possible, to move together.
I'm, therefore, also very grateful to
fellow General Synod members, for the gracious, collaborative, and
helpful way we are seeking to work together to ensure that here in this
diocese all have an honoured place and all voices are heard.
think you know, I support the introduction of these prayers. But not at
any price. Truth and unity go together. I also continue to believe that
if we can find ways of holding the Church together with our
disagreement, then this will be a powerful message of hope to the world.
it is to our divided world, our polarised society, the siren voices of
hatred and mistrust, the echo chambers of social media, the hate
speech, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, racism and its hideous,
overflow into violence and conflict that I want to return, for this must
be our first concern as followers of Jesus.
‘Love your enemy’
says Jesus (Matthew 5. 43). ‘And if anyone hits you on the right cheek,
offer your left as well’ (Matthew 5. 39). ‘If your enemy is thirsty,
give him a drink’ (see Romans 12. 20).
Less than two months ago,
Archbishop Hosam, the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, was a guest of
mine and the Dean's here in York. We had a wonderful weekend. We were
looking forward to a pilgrimage to the Holy Land next year. Now that
land, which the three great monotheistic religions of the world call
holy, is again engulfed by violence. I want to reiterate here, my
condemnation of the attacks on October 7 by the terrorist group Hamas,
which lit the fuse for this latest cycle of violence, but also to appeal
to the Israeli government to not only conduct its opposition to Hamas
in ways that will protect the innocent civilians of Gaza and observe
international law, but I can do no other but also cry out for peace, for
an end to violence and conflict, and encourage each of us to see in our
daily lives - with each other, in the Church and in our society - that
peace is a choice. Peace is a way of living and a set of responses that
we choose to make, that we decide upon. I note again that Jesus didn't
say ‘Blessed are the peace lovers’. Loving peace is relatively easy
because it’s general and abstract. But no. Jesus says ‘Blessed are the
peacemakers.’ Moreover, he calls peacemakers, people who choose peace,
who go the second mile to get inside the shoes of those who openly
disagree, who choose non-violence, who choose collaboration, he calls
peacemakers ‘children of God’, which therefore means, and this is such a
vital message for our church as well as for our world, that we are most
like a child of God when we make peace with each other. May it be so in
our Church and in our world. Amen.