Last night the Primates of the Anglican Communion issued their Communique and draft proposals for an Anglican Covenant. From all parts of the world they met to deliberate over one simple issue. Not poverty, the AIDs crisis, global warming or the looming environmental crisis - but what to do about a genial American who was accclaimed and ordained bishop, and Rites of Blessing. What's the problem, we may ask? Well, it's all about - gays and lesbians ... At least, that is the presenting issue.
Of course, those who met did so in the name of the Church - or at least the Anglican Communion. Naturally many have been hurt by the nature of their declarations. People already suffering (maybe not in the West, but certainly in most parts of Africa) are, once again, the target. "You are not wanted" may not have been the text, but it is certainly the sub-plot. So, once more, the church affirms it has no place for same-sex couples within its ranks. Nor does it want to officially recognise what so many others do - the existence of loving, fruitful, divinely blest relationships.
Musing on this I fell to wondering 'just who is the Church that has decided this?' It's not the People of God - mostly they have not even been consulted. Indeed in some areas they have been fed falsehoods by these appointed 'shepherds of the flock' of whom some are, clearly, more Prince Bishops in all but name. They are not the plebs sancti Dei - the holy common people of God. Most are not even elected (except, of course, those terrible Americans who've caused all this fuss and bother).
Then, after reading the staements and some of the pained comments that flowed on webs and blogs, I listened to the Reading from Ecclesiasticus at Mass this morning:
My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing. Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity. Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous. Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation. Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him.
So let the holy common people take heart! The liturgy is not the preserve of the bishops, it is the work of the people. And many have long escaped the bound of legalism to create liturgy with the people they serve. We will continue to bless what God has made holy - his people. We will celebrate the fruits that come from the love between two people and, maybe, we will say to the bishops, "you may control the portals of the hierarchy, may declare who is to be accepted and who is not but we, the people, recognise who are the true shepherds who will tend the flock.
You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not stray, or else you may fall. You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not be lost. You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy. ... For the Lord is compassionate and merciful; he forgives sins and saves in time of distress.