Currently my brother is attending the annual General Synod of the Church of England at the University of York. My brother is not a bishop or anything like that. On the other hand his 14 years of experience as vicar have set him in good enough stead to attend this year as a humble member of the assembly.
This year it discusses if women should become bishops, that is, holders of the most senior positions in the Anglican Church, except for the two Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and The Queen, who is Supreme Governor (and a woman, funnily enough).
If you live in the UK you will probably know about the Synod already. Our media tends to drop its customary lack of interest in the spiritual health and affairs of the nation when some controversial point affecting the Church of England can be set upon to incite scandal or reflection on its allegedly beleaguered fate and advancing decline.
But what interests me is how utterly bizarre and bonkers, if not sinister, this must all seem to your average, everyday post-Christian. Their knowledge of the gospel, after all, floats somewhere between non-existent and a stable, a star, some shepherds and three Kings gathered around a manger.
Are Christians aware, I wonder, of what these people must think about a gospel they know nothing about when all that they’re told about it by their favourite media outlets is that the principal institution in the land subscribing to it doesn’t like gays, doesn’t want to employ gays, and doesn’t want women to break through any threatening glass ceilings?
Don’t worry. I am not advocating censorship of the press to advance some rosier, less prurient Canterburian presentation. I set my colours firmly to the mast of our hard won, post-medieval liberties of conscience. I do not seek to imitate the authoritarian ambitions of certain other Godly paths I could mention.
Nor, just to let you know, do I believe, as a Christian (of a kind), that there is no place for a discussion of sexuality, homosexuality or the role of the ‘sacred feminine’ in Church debates.
All that confuses and perplexes me is how Christians have allowed it to come to pass that their faith can be seen by the wider, general, unbelieving public as something primarily, if not only, preoccupied with such secondary and, relatively speaking, irrelevant matters such as is homosexuality wrong and should women celebrate the Eucharist.
Just as I have no problem at all understanding why someone might not believe in the existence of God if they have had no experiences of what they take to be God, especially in light of the obvious sufferings of the world; so I have no problem understanding that if you are an atheist, or if not then a believer in some self-styled divinity of your own devising, you might very well, according to the lights of your own notions of virtue, see no reason why the Church's teachings on homosexuality, for example, can hold any water at all; how they could be anything other than a mere ideological justification for an ancient, hysterical homophobia.
Christian morality is morality for Christians. That is a logical utterance that seems robust enough for me. And when I say Christian morality I mean Christian morality, not Christian sexual morality – which is a mere outworking and expression of Christian morality, as is Christian business morality, Christian martial morality and Christian table manners for that matter.
Asking or expecting a non-Christian world to understand or embrace Christian morality without being Christians first, is a bit like criticizing players of baseball for fouling up the performance of cricket when they are not even trying to play the game.
First invite people to become Christians. First explain to them, present to them, show to them, demonstrate for them the glory and splendour and majesty and freedom that resides in the Gospel of Christ. Only then, if they become Christians, can they be expected to behave like Christians. Before this point, what justification can there be for Judgement? You tell me.
Why moralize to the outsiders when they don’t know what your’re talking about.