Two former classmates of mine from theological college days are in very different places on the homosexuality issue and both in the news in recent days. Henry Orombi now the Archbishop of Uganda is one of the leaders of the Global South group of Anglican archbishops who are pressing the American church to renounce its acceptance of homosexual bishops and clergy, and same-sex partnerships; and David Page, vicar of Clapham Common, is quoted in today’s Daily Telegraph as a priest who has a civil partnership with his partner. In the early 80s we were young students together in St John’s College Nottingham preparing for our lives as ordained ministers in the Anglican Communion; eating, praying and studying together in one large family. Now David and Henry stand on opposite sides of the rift threatening to split the Anglican church.
Recently I emailed Henry to plead the cause of unity and peace despite our differences, recalling our days together in the same classes and at the feet of the same biblical scholars. His reply was congenial but made clear that he believes the Americans and others who accept homosexuals in the ministry are the ones who are walking away from the biblical faith which is the foundation of the Anglican church. He sees himself as pleading with them for the cause of faithfulness to the biblical witness.
There was a wedding in our church this afternoon. It was conducted by my colleague but I happened to be walking by as the bride and groom emerged from the West Door into the sunlit churchyard. The scene was the same as it has been for decades if not centuries (with the notable exception of the video cameraman) – the bride in white shining out, the centre of attraction and interest. I started reflecting if the day would ever arrive, perhaps in ten years time, perhaps in a hundred, when it might be two women in white dresses emerging from the church as a couple, or two men beginning a lifelong partnership with the blessing of their church community. One hundred years from now – I cannot really doubt that will be accepted – unless the next generation leaves our dividing church to its own devices and finds God equally present at a wedding on a beach or in garden where the integrity of their identities and feelings are not questioned by those who neither know them nor understand them.