I’ve just seen a tweet mentioning people leaving the Church of England because of the way it treats women. This didn’t fill me with gladness. My views on marriage and bishops are clear, but I am all too aware of the levels of pain and frustration which have been sloshing about for the past few weeks – and I share them, even with those people who are hurting for diametrically opposite reasons.
This mess isn’t something that resolves by people taking their ball away and refusing to play. Everyone is my neighbour, whether I agree with their views or not. Listening to those who disagree hurts, but without that process of dialogue, there will never be any shared understanding. Even worse, there will be no relationship between different factions – so certainly no love.
It may be worth remembering that these are people with whom I can say the creed, with whom I can and will break bread, with whom I can receive blessings and absolution. These are my brothers and sisters in Christ, my neighbours in the church. There is far more that unites us than divides us.
The thing I’m not too sure about is how and where to start. Those who object theologically to female bishops are likely to avoid female priests. I can (and do) make the most of the chance encounters – three so far in the past month. And to be honest, I’m not sure I have the energy for more – I find the listening and the talking hard. But not as hard as seeing people left out in the cold. Not as painful as watching people walking away. But for me, this game is worth the candle.