Living in Love and Faith: Three - Stubbornly Hopeful

This is the third of my three reflections on the publication of the Church of England's Living in Love and Faith resources. 
If you have't read the other two parts of this - please do so! Part one can be found here, and part two here.

The first thing I want to say here is that although there have been times when I have been extremely frustrated with Dr Eeva John, the enabling officer of the LLF Project, honestly I think she is a marvel. Presented with an undoable task and an unwieldy machinery for accomplishing that task, Eeva has done a terrific job.

Do I like it all? No. Do I think huge mistakes were made along the way? Yes. But Eeva was dealt an unplayable hand and has somehow produced a resource that can take the C of E forward. 

Whenever I get frustrated with straight people who are put in charge of LGBTQ people’s lives (especially in the Church), I always remind myself - how can they possibly get this right? It’s not as if I begin to understand what life is like for them! It must be awful being straight. So many expectations. So many demands. Yes, safety in numbers, but when life can be so awesomely brilliant, who wants to settle for safety?

I keep reminding myself: Disappointment is so evidently the lot of straight people. Be kinder to them.

It must be awful being straight, or why would they want to treat people who are different as badly as so many straight people do? 

That’s why chapter ten of the LLF book is so good. It takes away a theology of ‘other’ and begins to replace it with the proper fabulousness of diversity. This is our gift to you, dear friends.

So what is my hope?

That the empty words Tina found unbearable (no problems, only people) start becoming true. 

I sat in one LLF meeting where for two hours there were only problems, no people. I commented on this afterward; other LGBTQ folk nodded wearily. No straight person had noticed. It must be awful not to notice such things. I’m colour-blind, but I could never live in such a despairingly grey world as those straight bishops and theologians clearly took for granted. 

People are amazing. People are gifts. People are wonderful and weird and made in God’s unfathomably creative image. Let the colour in! It’s not something you need to be scared of. It’s transformative and life-giving.

LGBTQ people don’t make the Church weaker or less pure: we make her more who she always has been. We always have. We always will. 

And seeing us as equal doesn’t make others less. That’s not how the equality pie works. Giving a bigger piece to me is the only way you make sure you get a big piece for yourself! That’s God’s glorious economy of generosity! 

To my fellow LGBTQ friends: please don’t fret that LLF is imperfect. It sure is. There are tons of things here I really don’t like. But if we only shine spotlights on those things, those things are all that anyone will see. So our challenge is not to endlessly nit-pick and complain, but instead to find moments of glory and focus there. Let us make this about the things that raise us up and sing those songs louder than any other songs anybody else is singing. 

The story goes that Galileo, after being forced to recant of his remarkable ideas of the earth not being the centre of the universe, but rather that it moves around the sun - and thereby of questioning the historic, traditional, orthodox teaching of the Church - once more looked out at the sunlight and saw again the way shadows fell. He couldn't help himself: 'Eppur si muove,' he muttered. 'And yet it moves'.  

Our voices are God-given and stunningly beautiful. Let’s find God-given and stunningly beautiful things to see and to sing. We have a choice where our eyes fall and what our mouths tell. Paul points us this way in Philippians 4.8: ‘Whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy’... so let's find these things in these pages and then let's sing them loud. And let's call as many friends, family members and allies as we can to sing out with us. 

As Joe Biden said in closing his rousing speech on becoming US President-Elect - keep the faith, spread the faith.

But let's keep our feet on the ground: does LLF say the C of E should start recognising our equality so that we might have equal marriage tomorrow? No. Does it instantly ban all prejudice? No. These are the things that matter. These are the things where words stop being pretty entertainments and become life-changing realities, and unless we are changing lives for the better - what's the point? I'm not sticking around in these awful, dispiriting rooms for no reason.

Yet - there is reason. From the recesses of LLF comes a theology of equality and diversity that means the inevitable differentiating against us to our disadvantage - the kind of ethical apartheid that has been the traditional, historical, practical teaching of the church for so long - cannot survive. All we have now are these words, but maybe, just maybe these words will live...if we breathe enough life into them.

Eppur si muove. Whatever is right. Spread the faith. 

So I want to say - this is a time for us to sing out. 

Let's seize the moment and take hold of this imperfect project and use it to make the music that drowns out the greyness and the disappointment that keep us not being ourselves, and in its place let's revel in the fierce tenderness of God's perfect love and the one equal hope set before all God's children.

Let's make the words so clear that the actions have to follow.


  1. A thousand thank-yous: so very well said.

  2. Thankyou for sticking with it in spite of the pain. Thankyou for the hope you bring into it.

  3. I love this series of posts. Well done.

  4. Many thanks for all the kind comments and thoughts that so many folk have sent through to me.
    Apparently though I need to make a clarification...

    As I seek to encourage all of us who are LGBTQ and trying to help the Church to embrace equality and diversity, I do find myself from time to time using a bit of hyperbole. It's a rhetorical technique I learned from an itinerant preacher in the Middle East.

    When I charge LGBTQ people to be sassy and fabulous and brave and amazing, please - it's because the world pushes us so often to become victims or simply makes us bitter. We're better than that. We have far more heart and soul and infinitely more life and joy to offer. It has however been put to me that writing this way in this this blog is proof I am “anti” straight people: forgive me, I’m going to beg to disagree. (I know lots of straight people. Some of them are among my very best friends. My sister - for example - came out as straight when she was ever so young, and she knows I will always love her, whatever lifestyle choices she makes...)

    Please allow me to re-state two things from the blog above. They only work if they are true of everyone.
    1. People are amazing. People are gifts. People are wonderful and weird and made in God’s unfathomably creative image. Let the colour in! It’s not something you need to be scared of. It’s transformative and life-giving.
    ("People" here means "all people". If you're a person - you're included. Period.)

    2. And seeing us as equal doesn’t make others less. That’s not how the equality pie works. Giving a bigger piece to me is the only way you make sure you get a big piece for yourself! That’s God’s glorious economy of generosity!
    (May I say - I love to give huge pieces of equality to people who don't think like I do; I really believe this stuff, so the only way I receive grace is to be generous to people who are different. And that's pretty easy for me - see (1) above. "All people are amazing". Why wouldn't I want people I don't understand to have such a great gift? I might not understand all people - but I do understand all people are amazing. Again - if you fit the descriptor 'people', this includes you.)

    Equality is never the political victory of one group over another.
    It is the equal flourishing of all God's children, when all can worship together free from fear at the foot of the cross, living lives of joy and service side by side in the presence of the Saviour who died and rose again that we might know life in all its fulness.
    I will sometimes use hyperbole to drive a point home, but I’ll never allow that it’s OK to treat others as they have treated us; that's not what we are called to -

    But then nor are we called to lose our sense of humour. Or perspective. Or kindness. Or decency, or dignity, or anything else that we all share and that helps us thrive as equal human beings.


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