“Don’t take sides” warned a wise person some years ago when I was imagining parish life. I think they had a point. I’ve not been asked to sign many local petitions , but I have declined them all. I have to be Rector to everyone in this place. They have to be able to approach me without worrying I might berate them about the latest council decision/the planning application/the chicken farm/the site of the WW1 commemorative hanging/the post on the local Facebook page etc etc.
That’s all obvious enough perhaps. But what happens about wider issues? What about the more general petitions? I still sign some of them. I don’t think anyone is likely to complain when a priest signs a petition concerned with domestic violence or poverty.
The difficult issues are the ones where I hold a firm opinion which is at odds with the teaching of the Church of England. It will not be a surprise to regular readers that I am a staunch supporter of Bishops. All of ’em. Don’t care. Black, white, gay, straight, male, female, Conservative, Evangelical. I swear an oath of obedience to my Diocesan Bishop and so I obey. It isn’t always easy. At what point does obedience become more important than speaking out? There is, says Ecclesiates 3, a time to speak, and a time to be silent. When is silence the wiser choice? When is speaking prophetic? I suspect that, as usual, hindsight is the best aid to discernment.