I heard this morning about an open letter signed by 105 church leaders, many of them senior, to Justin Welby and John Sentamu saying this is the time for repentance in the Church of its treatment of LGBTI people, its lack of duty of care and its inability to embrace and celebrate LGBTI people. In some ways I support this letter. The Church has hurt and continues to hurt LGBTI people in profound ways and its attitudes have, I believe, contributed to discrimination, hostility and violence. I might go so far as to say the Church has blood on its hands, for example in the instances of suicide and the violence, often murder of trans people caused by attitudes to which it may have contributed.
My views on the issue of discrimination in the Church whether on the basis of gender or sexuality are the main reason I am not a member of the Church of England. So I don't have a problem with the idea of repentance, I just wonder how helpful it is, especially at this particular time? After all, the insurmountable problem is that many others, especially those in the African wing of the Communion also fervently believe that those who support LGBTI rights, and support gay marriage need to "repent" of what they see as non-adherence to scripture- and they could argue about that for a long time really, and in fact have done, and still not managed to agree, in many ways because of different cultural perspectives.
I think both sides have to understand that the likelihood that the "other side" is going to change their views and "repent" is slim or non-existent.I suspect that when people are told to repent, especially when they have made their mind up and believe they are in the right, it just pisses them off even more. It is also very important to remember that repentance is not just for other people but for all of us, and we all have lots and lots of things to repent of, starting with our inability to show love to each other especially when that is really difficult.
The Archbishop of Brazil, the Most Revd Francisco de Assis da Silva, said that he hoped the gathering would be, " a meeting between pastors and not a chess game", and that, "in Christ, every person is welcomed... and the exclusion of those who are liberals or conservatives is not a good start." He continues, " No one is the owner of God's will. Everyone needs to change their mind and spirit to become truly servants and address adequately those issues that our times challenges us with: the absence of love and the absence of justice."
What will happen, will happen. In the greater scheme of things, it doesn't matter too much, but if you do have any lingering affection for the idea of a global Anglicanism, pray for a spirit of wisdom and love, echoing hopes of the Archibishop of Brazil and Justin Welby below.