I have just come back from a diocesan clergy conference in Lancaster, which is close enough to go and buy Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimps from the place itself. Potted shrimps are important for being a rare English survivor of the worst excesses of our Protestant/Puritan culinary heritage.
I enjoy clergy conferences. For all our disagreements, we share this particular corner of the Lord’s vineyard, and the chance to meet colleagues, without the clutter of parish and deanery concerns, offers a welcome sense of the ordinariness of parochial ministry.
All the same we needed stronger content. We had a diocesan bishop from the Episcopal Church of the USA, one who had taken part in the recent Convention that had approved Gene Robinson. Our own diocesan was one of the nine who signed the open letter expressing concern over Jeffrey John’s appointment. It was one month before the feared, predicted, awaited break-up of the Anglican Communion.
Much care and prayer would have been needed, but might we not have had a debate, presentation or discussion about the burning issue of the day? One hundred parish clergy, who next month must, from the pulpit, in the magazine or in people’s homes, explain what has happened and why, must teach their people what are the core truths behind the media distortions, and what is the teaching of Our Lord, in his Church and the Scriptures?
Was anything said? Did our bishops teach? Of course not. Instead (and I am sure our little, soon-to-be-amalgamated diocese is no worse than any other) we remained deliciously parochial, and had sessions on local ministry teams (that was why I had time to go hunting the best potted shrimps). Yes, it would have been difficult: patience and tolerance would have been called for, and we would have to have prayed in earnest. But it could have happened.
The English, thanks to our Puritan past, do not like talking about sex. But is it not because we cannot talk about it, even among ourselves as clergy, that we are unable to go beyond that subject to the deeper issues involved? So that in the end, the world accuses us, with nice irony, of ‘only being interested in sex’. NT