As I prepare to attend the Chrism Eucharist I am a troubled man. The Dean in my cathedral is living in a civil partnership. In the past the clergy in my parish have been in impaired communion with the Dean and the cathedral. so what am I to do that will affrim my my Bishops ministry and take the right stand in realtion to the leader of the mission at the catherdral. The Church of England isn’t clear on the matter, but i will take as its postion the two psotions taken in 1987 and at the Lambeth Conference on the matter of sexuality.
In 1987 the Higton motion was passed at General Synod and it reads:
“This Synod affirms that the biblical and traditional teaching on chastity and fidelity in personal relationships is a response to, and an expression of, God’s love for each one of us, and in particular affirm:
1) that sexual intercourse is an act of total commitment which belongs properly within a permanent married relationship
2) that fornication and adultery are sins against this ideal, and are to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion
3) that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met by a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion
4) that all Christians are called to be exemplary in all spheres of morality, including sexual morality, and that holiness of life is particularly required of Christian leaders.”
and Lambeth 1.10 (d) says:
“while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;”
So, my simple question is can I attend a service in a cathedral where the Dean takes a different view on what scripture says and can I receive communion there? Pete Broadbent suggested to me that the Chrism Eucharist is the bishops service and the cathedral just hosts it and others have remind me of article 26 which reads:
“Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and, Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in the receiving of the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.”
This eems to imply that as the service will be led by the bishop and the communion is not effected by the sin of any minister and by sin I accept Wayne Grudhem’s definition of it as a “refusal to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude or nature.”
We have to consider the nature of the cathedral within the diocese next, and the accepted norm is that they are a focus for the diocese in mission and they are the seat of the bishop. The leader of that mission is the dean and a dean (decanus) seems to have derived the designation from the Benedictine “deans” who had ten monks under their charge. The dean came into existence to supply the place of the provost in the internal management of the church and chapter. In England every secular cathedral church was headed by a dean who was originally elected by the chapter and confirmed in office by the bishop. The dean is president of the chapter and within the cathedral has charge of the celebration of the services, taking specified portions of them by statute on the principal festivals. Deans sit in the principal stall in the choir, which is usually the first on the right hand on entering the choir at the west.
The Dean isn’t the cathedral and I can be in communion with the cathedral and I think with the bishop and attend his services in his cathedral without acknowledging good relations with another person who in my opinion is acting in a way that is sinful with Grudhems definition. So how do I view the people who fall within this definition? Genesis tells me they are made in the image of God and thus in their created humanity good. the bible also tells me to love my neighbour as I love myself so I am to love them even if that means telling them that what they think is valid as a life choice is wrong biblically. Christ has compassion on sinners and so must I.
The issue is can I work with a person to take forward the gospel and clearly if the gospel that a person puts forward is fundamentally different to my understanding of what the bible teaches then I cannot. I am not being asked to do that and so as I have an orthodox bishop I believe that the attendance at the Chrism isn’t a comment of support for the stance taken by any member of the chapter. I must be biblical and the bible teaches in Matthew 18:
15 “If your brother or sister[b] sins,[c] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[d] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
I must first make my issue plain with the individual and then with my bishop if there is no change in the persons view, what does verse 17 mean in reality? It means that to me and me alone the person I am at odds with are as an outsider to the church I stand in impaired communion with a person not a church. The church may decide, when I make clear what I think, not to act in any way that impairs communion but I must stand by the teaching of the bible.
So, in summary I cannot be in impaired communion with my bishop as he is standing for biblical teaching and I cannot be out of communion with a building so I can go to the cathedral for a service led by the bishop. Out of love I must let the person i believe to be in sin know of my issue and my view and call them to repentance. If they refuse to repent and the church refuses to act in any way to discipline them, we, meaning the Dean and I must be in impaired communion. A friend of a friend said “Jesus is not an easy travelling companion” because he calls us to call for radical transformation in people through teaching the Gospel. I will go and act with compassion and in love what ever that calls me to do and say.