A few years I read a book called ‘What is so amazing about Grace?’ by Phil Yancey, I was commuting from Southampton to London and by the end of the 75 minute journey I was in tears. I was in tears because it was written an American Pastor who looked critically at the Church and came to the conclusion that Church could be one of the most un-Christian environments, but rather than leave the accusation hanging in the air he moved it forward, to say we are all flawed and that we must learn what ‘grace’ really is.
Having read the other day that the Archbishop of Westminster has banned the monthly ban on the communion of gay Catholics I was angry, I was angry at the exclusion not of the gay community, but the exclusion of people of faith wanting to share and celebrate their faith. I felt not only their rejection but the rejection by the Catholic Church of the very people Christ has come to reach.
Again the ‘Church’ has displayed its homophobia, its exercise of power on the powerless, using its authority to enforce conformity. The Archbishop of Westminster has not shown how broken the people are, but rather shown how broken the Church is in that it is unable to accept the truth of where people are.
I have known many gay Christians and have struggled at times how I celebrate my life within the context of the communion of the Church, some have rejected the Church, some have built walls to exclude certain part of their lives, to live a lie whilst others have gone the path of sacrificing their sexuality and faith by bringing the two together – these are really brave ones. In their numbers are these Christians, Catholics, who have celebrated their faith apart from the rest of the congregations, almost lepers within their faith, the wounded, and the untouchables.
The ‘Mass’ at Warwick Street has been closed, more than likely mixed in the hiatus of the Church in the ‘Equal Marriage’ debate – a salvo from the Church of its opposition to proposed legislation. I want to be angry over this, I want to be angry at a Church that by its very name is ‘universal’ seeking to stigmatise parts of its congregation, I want to be angry that the Church is not living up to it’s calling of including everyone, I want to get angry at the discrimination – but I cannot feel angry, I just feel desperately sorry for the Church. It’s leaders are as broken as everyone one as us, and the crime is that it fails to recognise it’s humanity. Bullies, of whatever shape or form, are merely projecting their inadequacies and lack of power onto those that appear weaker, by closing the Mass the Church is acknowledging not it’s strength but its weakness.
The Catholic Church has been unable to fight the democratic process of the fight for equality, it has been ignored by its laity in it’s ‘moral outrage’ that the closing of the Mass can only be seen as an act of power in the face of its own weakness. It is the act of a bully, a frightened and hurt child, wishing to show its strength – and it is desperately sad. Not only does it lack the the strength of its laity, it lacks the authority of Christ – too many of its pronouncements lack the warmth of love and compassion, it is a corpse flailing around, lacking spiritual fulfillment it creates an illusion of authority in its fine clothes and empty rites.
A Church so bedeviled by its dogma that it seeks consolation in ritual because ‘God does not live there anymore’
We are all broken in our own ways, and it is the Churches job to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, that if you are beyond hope, then there is hope, if you are a sinner then there is redemption, , if you are broken then there is healing. If Christmas reminds us of anything then it should be that the Church started with an unmarried Mother, of a poor tribe, of a working family.
I feel sorry for the Church that it has lost its message amongst its finery, that its purpose is lost in the incense burnt. Isaiah proclaims, a prophet more associated with gay bashing than most others, that God abhors the incense of the services, and detests the sacrifices offered if the Church forgets its primary mission..
When I say I feel sorry for the Church it is the ‘Church Politic’ that needs to display its power through ritual and demonization of smaller groups, a ‘play ground bully’ if you will – it is the ‘Church Universal’ the pew fillers that give me hope. It is the men and women that do not see ‘gay’ or ‘straight’, ‘Greek’ or ‘Jew’ but sees people, people made in Christ’s image, people who do not support
I mentioned Phil Yancey’s book ‘What’s so amazing about Grace?’ because he tells of a demonstration he went on in Washington DC at Gay Pride – he was standing beside a friend who ‘came out’ to him, he says he one group, Gay Christians, with a placard that read ‘We pray for the Church’.
I would be very surprised if the Mass at Warwick Street offended God – a group of believers coming together to celebrate their love – but I wonder if the same can be said at the Mass that is offered at Westminster Cathedral, with its Gold and Chalices and Choirs, and filled with pomp?
We should not judge the Church by its Bishops or Archbishops, but by its people who often sing a different song.