At St Martin-in-the-Fields we value inclusivity. That means we particularly cherish those whose gifts the church has wastefully long neglected and whose identity it has shamefully often oppressed. We believe the reason the church so frequently experiences its life as scarcity is because it has failed to receive and honour those angels and blessings that God has consistently sent its way. Meanwhile we recognise that inclusivity requires us to find ways to listen with humility to those whose perspective, we fear, seems to shrink the wideness of God’s mercy. They dwell in God’s heart too.
We welcome the bishops’ commitment to listening, embodied in the Shared Conversations. We wonder in what respects the document shows evidence of having truly heard the experience of those whose lives and callings the church has so long suppressed and vilified. We look forward to the promised signs that the church has indeed had a change of heart.
We welcome the bishops’ reluctance to be drawn into sweeping ‘solutions’ or idle ‘resolutions.’ We wonder why one part of the body of Christ continues to be regarded as a problem rather than as a gift. We look forward to a genuine transformation of tone and culture away from one that rejects people simply for the way God has made them.
We welcome the bishops’ call for maximum freedom within the current legal constraints. We wonder if the bishops really want to endorse such an uncomfortable contrast between love and law, covenant fidelity and ecclesiastical disapproval, the manifest grace of God and a precise reading of select scriptural texts, the increasingly warm embrace of society and the apparently inexplicable inhibition of the church. We look forward to a time when pastoral care is not invoked to tend wounds the church has so often itself inflicted.
We welcome the call for a new teaching document on marriage and relationships. We wonder in what sense, if there is no conception of any alteration to the existing teaching on marriage, such a document could genuinely be described as ‘new.’ We look forward to a truly open, honest, fresh and gracious shared conversation in the church about God’s gifts of love, fidelity, relationship, family and marriage.
Seeking the healing of the church we love.
Sam Wells, Vicar
Gail Elkington and Adrian Harris, Churchwardens
St Martin-in-the-Fields, 8 February 2017