Signing my life away?

IMG_3993“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.

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One response to “Signing my life away?

  1. I suspect that I’d have been bad on the score of obedience if I’d have been ordained. I had enough trouble satisfying the DDO that I understood the concept (as if 43 years in the Army hadn’t ingrained it), but I always pointed out that my conscience would be a problem in any master = servant relationship with a Bishop (just as with a CO) who asked/directed/ordered me to do something that went against my conscience and integrity.

    I suspect it’s learning about balance, and while I’m free to comment, protest or to do whatever I like without the constraints of being Clergy, I also recognise that part of any sharing of ministry is a mutual responsibility to the team, the community that we serve and ultimately to the Church that we profess to belong too. So, I don’t sign many petitions, I tend to write to my MP (if it’s about policy, or legislation or actions that I believe are unfair to others) or resort to prayer and reflection, before I actually break a silence and put a foot in my mouth.

    I do believe that one thing that I have learned from the internet and my exposure to a wide range of forums and blogs is the wisdom of restraint and thoughtful response or none, where it might cause offence or harm. Not a particularly heroic attitude, but sometimes silence is indeed golden.

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