Made by God, loved by God

Remarks made at the launch of the Ozanne Foundation, April 2018:

Friends, thank you for coming this evening and for accompanying us as we formally begin this venture together.

Communities of faith have made huge contributions to the well-being of the world. It’s in our nature to have a deep respect for our history and tradition, and often this is a good thing, as when we stand against the commodification of people, or stand for community or for strong personal relationships, or when we seek to help the poor.

But there have been other times in the history of communities of faith when people have found it difficult to accept change, and sometimes difficult to see God’s hand in it. A classic example is the struggle for the abolition of slavery, and the ceaseless advocacy that was needed on the part of Christians to persuade their friends that God’s love for all human beings had social consequences which demanded justice.

And we believe we’re in such a situation today, as we look at the complicated messages that the faith communities send to LGBTI+ people. Looking at my own community I say with pain and regret that many in the Christian churches have not offered the love of Christ as freely as our Lord himself asked us to do.

We are always clear in our public statements that we oppose homophobia in all its forms, and that we want to welcome all; and I believe that we mean it. Yet at the same time we know that many LGBTI+ people have suffered pain and rejection from Christians, personally and institutionally, to the extent that many have left the churches or in some cases have felt compelled to self-harm or even to take their own lives. And this goes on today. We need to do better.

We need to welcome people properly, and to love our friends as God loves them – in short to love people as God made them. We are called radically to affirm and honour all our friends, including of course all our LGBTI+ friends, as beloved children of God. And that will have implications for our policies and stances as churches. If we are to do better, we need to change.

We need then to look intelligently together at what change might look like in the practice of the churches, for example in our approach to those who ask us for recognition and affirmation of their relationship, or in the advice we give to the churches on welcoming and fully including LGBTI+ people in their lives.

If things are to change then there need to be advocates, and this Foundation proudly advocates for a greater inclusion and equality. We aim to do so courteously and to engage with those who disagree. It is not the purpose of the Ozanne Foundation to destroy anything or to break anything. But we want communities of faith seriously to recognise the need for change in this area of LGBTI+ inclusion and welcome. And we’ll advocate for that consistently and without apology. It’s work which demands patience, but which also calls for a holy impatience.

In the Church we seek to move together, which is why we often move so glacially slowly. But the aims of this Foundation are clear, and we bring them before our friends in the churches with a sense of real urgency. Because while we are talking, people are suffering. And so we feel called to advocate for inclusion and equality now, and for still greater inclusion and equality in the near future.

Our aims are clearly expressed. We aim to establish constructive encounters with those of different views, to educate people on the social and scientific and theological landscape, and to empower people to act as advocates for change if they believe that change should come.

This evening we are honoured by the presence of representatives of other advocacy organisations and networks, and we want to stand with these friends and to complement their work with our own particular emphasis and style.

The trustees of this Foundation are part of Team Ozanne – supporting and helping our director, Jayne Ozanne, in her tireless work of advocacy and conversation and networking. Jayne is a difference-maker and we aim to honour the difference she is making and to support her in her work.

We need your support to see that work done. You’ve offered a huge amount in sheer encouragement simply by turning up tonight. If you’re in a position to help us financially, we badly need that. If you’re a person of faith yourself and you pray, we need your prayers and your love. And as conversations continue, and light and heat all jumble together in the rough-and-tumble of those conversations, we need your wisdom and your care.

Thank you for indicating, by coming tonight, that we stand together in our desire to keep talking, to advocate for the things we care about, to see justice done, and as Jesus said, so simply but so challengingly, to love one another. Thank you.

© +Paul Liverpool 2018

The grace of God in the churches

Just one more Michael Ramsey reference, as I pray from the US for the conversations on Mission and Ministry in Covenant. The quotation copied below is in the context of the “Service of Reconciliation” ideas of the 1960s and 1970s, which of course are NOT on the table in the present Anglican/Methodist conversations.

But in this quotation from Owen Chadwick’s biography, Ramsey clearly states his understanding of the grace of Methodist orders. He values immensely his own episcopal order, and the episcopal order in his Church, as I do, as all Episcopalians should. And he honours the Methodist ministry and is “perfectly certain” that Methodist ministers are “not just lay [people]”. For the rest he is glad to trust to the knowledge and love of God as being greater than his own.

Michael Ramsey, to his Diocesan Conference in Canterbury, October 1968, quoted in Owen Chadwick, “Michael Ramsey: a Life”, p.339.

Not just laymen

I agree with Ramsey in this. This for me is the starting point from which “Mission and Ministry in Covenant” would move us on; from which the Methodist people, if they chose, would then incorporate episcopacy into their life as a church. It is a very different starting point from the one misdescribed as “lay presidency”.

I copy this extract because I hope it will help friends and colleagues who are worried about this.

I hope that Synod will approve the suggestions in Mission and Ministry in Covenant, which will simply pave the way for future debate and future decision. I do so as a confident and settled Anglican who seeks the unity of the churches. I am proud and glad to have advocated strongly for the ordination of women since I myself was ordained in 1979, and I rejoice to see women now as priests and bishops in our Church. I greatly treasure the wonderful gifts of God to our Church in episcopal order and continuity. But I do not believe that this treasuring should lead me to fear any loss. For me the grace of God in the churches can indeed be lost, if the churches cease to worship God, to speak of Jesus and to love as Jesus loved. I cannot see any risk of that in the proposals currently before the Synod.

Prayers and love as ever from New York to all.

 

 

 

Mission and Ministry in Covenant

Study leave is a dislocating experience, literally. My location has been disrupted and at the moment I’m in New York, learning from friends and colleagues in the Episcopal Church and at the same time praying for my Diocese and for our Church of England as usual.

And I really regret that I won’t be at Synod this week, among other things to vote for “Mission and Ministry in Covenant” and to support the journey laid out in that paper.

Here is a non-Episcopal church, the Methodist Church, that is prepared to consider taking into itself the Episcopal order, facing the “bold step” laid down for it by the final report of the Joint Implementation Commission: “The challenge of the Covenant – Uniting in Mission and Holiness”. The Methodist Church may choose not to do so, but they are prepared to consider it, and they are considering it, seriously and publicly and wisely. And here are we in our turn facing the “bold step” laid down for us, which we so lightheartedly affirmed when we affirmed the first recommendation of that report in Synod in 2014 – “reconciling, with integrity, the existing presbyteral and diaconal ministries of our two churches, which would lead to the interchangeability of ministries”.

The proposals now before Synod indicate a direction of travel, final decision on which will come later. The direction seemed very good to me and still does. The main reason for this is that I believe myself to be what you might call a Michael Ramsey Anglican, in this case one who stands with Ramsey in what he said in his first book, “The Gospel and the Catholic Church” (1935) as well as in his struggle for Anglican/Methodist reconciliation in his own day.

And all I want to do as I pray for Synod members is to quote a few passages from Ramsey’s book, together with the fourth of the affirmations of the Chicago/Lambeth Quadrilateral as affirmed by the Lambeth Conference in 1888.

Ramsey:

“The doctrine of the Church, and its order, ministry, and sacraments will in these pages be expounded not primarily in terms of an institution founded by Christ, but in terms of Christ’s death and resurrection of which the one Body, with its life and its order, is the expression.”

“It will be asked, for instance, what truth about the Gospel of God does the Episcopate, by its place in the one Body, declare? And what truth about the Gospel is obscured if the Episcopate is lacking or is perverted?”

“Thus the Church is pointing beyond theology, beyond reunion-schemes, beyond philanthropies, to the death of the Messiah.”

“The peril, in short, is for the devout Churchman to turn his religion into a “glory to me,” “glory to this movement,” “glory to the Church” religion instead of a “glory to God” religion.”

“Developments [in church order] thus took place, but they were all tested. The tests of a true development are whether it bears witness to the Gospel, whether it expresses the general consciousness of the Christians, and whether it serves the organic unity of the Body in all its parts.”

“The Catholicism, therefore, that sprang from the Gospel of God is a faith wherein the visible and ordered Church fills an important place. But this Church is understood less as an institution founded upon the rules laid down by Christ and the Apostles than as an organism that grew inevitably through Christ’s death and resurrection. The Church, therefore, is defined not in terms of itself, but in terms of Christ, whose Gospel created it and whose life is its indwelling life.”

“For the Bishop does not have a greatness of [his/her] own, [s/he] is the organ of the one Body who represents to the Christians their dependence within the Body, and to the local Church its dependence within the historic family, whose worship is one act.”

“[The Episcopate] speaks of the incompleteness of every section of a divided Church, whether of those who possess the Episcopate or of those who do not. And those who possess it will tremble and never boast, for none can say that it is “theirs.” It proclaims that there is one family of God before and behind them all, and that all die daily in the Body of Him who died and rose.”

And most famously:

“For while the Anglican church is vindicated by its place in history, with a strikingly balanced witness to Gospel and Church and sound learning, its greater vindication lies in its pointing through its own history to something of which it is a fragment. Its credentials are its incompleteness, with the tension and the travail in its soul. It is clumsy and untidy, it baffles neatness and logic. For it is sent not to commend itself as “the best type of Christianity,” but by its very brokenness to point to the universal Church wherein all have died.”

Finally from the Lambeth Quadrilateral as affirmed in 1888:

“The following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God’s blessing made towards Home Reunion…

(4) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

In the landscape lit by these ideas I would vote for the direction of travel laid out in “Mission and Ministry in Covenant”. I greatly hope that Synod will do the same.