Since Bishop Philip Richardson shared his view about discrimination against gay and lesbian Anglicans there has been much discussion. Glynn Cardy, Vicar of St Matthew-in-the-City, offers this in the hope that the way forward might be less about law and more about grace.
Sometimes I like to think of the New Zealand Anglican Church as a large old rambling house, with lots of rooms, and lots of room for everyone. There are plenty of places and spaces, inside and out, to explore, play, or sit quietly and muse.
This house has changed over the years. The original English design has been modified significantly. Not only did this land provide the timber but also in time its people and ways have affected the whole ambience and ethos. Hospitality and grace are at its heart.
The house rules have always been kept to a minimum, committing to writing as little as possible in order to allow as much openness as possible. Grace has been paramount. Rather than trusting a rulebook we have elected bishops to hold our ethos.
There have always been gays and lesbians in our house, serving, building, leading, and contributing to what and who we are. We Anglicans seldom talk about our diversity, including sexuality, so it’s been easy to ignore the faithful and continuous presence of gays and lesbians who are seen but not seen, here but not heard.
This de facto policy of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ has allowed the foul weather of prejudice to get in and rot our house of hospitality. We have a leaky building. It needs fixing.
The rot has so eaten away at our ethos that ‘Jane’, a chalice bearer in her parish, can no longer offer the cup of hope because her Civil Union is not mentioned in the rulebook, and according to her bishop only what’s in the rulebook is allowed.
The rot has so eaten away at our ethos that ‘Sam’, called by his Shared Ministry Unit, could not answer that call because his Civil Union is not mentioned in the rulebook, and his bishop was worried other rulebook bishops will be upset.
The rot is eating away the grace until only the rules are left. Now, alas, homosexuality and Civil Unions, not mentioned in our rulebook, are purported to be ‘illegal’ by church law. Since when did we ask lawyers to hold our ethos of hospitality and grace? That’s the vocation of bishops.
Our big old rambling Anglican house has weathered many storms and leaks. Hopefully it will do so again. I am not gay but I am diminished when we discriminate against gay and lesbian Anglicans.
Such discrimination is wrong. And we know it. And it’s rotting our house.