I've been reading recently about the case of Jeremy Timms, a lay reader who has been told by John Sentamu that his permission to officiate will be removed if he converts his civil partnership to marriage, as he intends to do. Now in some ways this is no concern of mine as I am not a member of the Church of England, on the other hand it is as I know Jeremy and have stayed in his house in previous years when attending York synod. I am also a little surprised that Sentamu has reacted this way as, although the Church has always said it would withdraw PTO from clergy who converted civil partnerships to marriages, its official guidelines in 2014 made a distinction between clergy and lay discipline stating that, "Those same sex couples who choose to marry should be welcomed into the life of the worshipping community."It did make me wonder how you can welcome a couple and yet (presumably) make it clear to them they cannot be involved in lay ministry. I also wonder how welcomed anyone would feel seeing others treated in this way.
This story brought to mind for me the vote for gay marriage in Ireland where 62% of people voted "yes", an amazing result which led Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to say the church needed a "reality check" if it was to retain worshippers. I have no idea if the Irish Catholic Church has formulated a more realistic view on subjects such as sexuality and contraception since then- personally I very much doubt it but I can't see that the Church of England is doing any better at the moment. It does all confirm what I felt in November 2012 after the failure of the women bishops vote. Even though this vote was later carried, this was largely due to the awareness of the disastrous consequences if it did not carry, not least that Parliament might take the step of removing the Church's exemption from equality legislation. It was also outrageous that it simply took so long for the Church's structures to be opened equally to both men and women; it really did all come too late.
Anyhow, as I say, I don't really know why I am concerning myself with this at all because it is none of my business and in any case I believe that God inhabits the secular world and the whole of life much more than a church or institution. We are told that, "the Lord God does not dwell in houses built by human hands". You cannot build a church with bricks but only through investing in people and values. I think the question the Church of England needs to ponder very closely at a time of rapid change might be what kind of a house they should build.