Speaking of sexual irony.

Earlier this week I was privileged to take the funeral of a lovely man, let’s call him Frank. The funeral took place in a crematorium and was extremely well attended. Frank had spent much of his adult life living in a rural part of Oxfordshire but originally hailed from Birmingham. I reckon that just over 100 people attended the funeral including Frank’s civil partner, let’s call him Jim.

Everyone at the funeral was asked to wear a rainbow emblem, which they did without shame or embarrassment. I wore one on my stole. Frank had an old fashioned Anglo Catholic faith and Jim asked me to make sure that this was reflected in the service. I was asked, no instructed, to make sure that I wore a purple stole (which I would have done in any case) over my cassock and surplice.

I don’t know this for sure but I suspect that the majority of the congregation were heterosexual, and yet they sported their rainbow emblems with pride. Their love for Frank and their delight in his civil partnership with Jim was clear and manifest. The beauty and dignity of their forty year relationship was honoured through the tributes. As far as I can tell everyone was thrilled that Frank had been able to enjoy a long-term, monogamous, faithful and latterly covenanted relationship with Jim. The love and support for Jim was both heart-felt and genuine. It was a beautiful service. As I say: to officiate was a privilege.

And yet driving home from the funeral I felt a real sense of sadness and, to some extent – well a considerable extent – shame; shame that we, the Church of England, were able to speak well of Frank in death when we couldn’t bring ourselves to do so in life.

Shame that we could speak well of Frank and Jim’s relationship in death, when we couldn’t formally, liturgically, affirm it in life.

Shame that the funeral liturgy makes it clear that ‘you (Jesus) offered eternal life to those who believe,’ whilst so often the Church of England wants to add ‘but terms and conditions apply.’ It’s a shameful irony that so many of those who would count themselves as true heirs to the reformation seem so insistent on a theology of salvation through (sexual) works.

Shame that I was able to ask God to ‘remember for good your servant Frank as we also remember him,’ in the expectation that God will ‘bring all who rest in Christ into the fullness of your kingdom where sins have been forgiven and death is no more,’ when a very significant constituency in the Church of England continue to insist that homosexuality is the unforgivable sin.

Frank and Jim’s civil partnership was, by all accounts, a beautiful ceremony, followed by a wonderful ‘wedding banquet.’  I know that they both enjoyed their big day, but the shame and sadness is this: Frank wanted his relationship, his long-term, faithful and monogamous relationship, to be formally and liturgically affirmed, signed, sealed and delivered by the Church and, in a church.

I am grateful that I was able to do for Frank in death that which the church wouldn’t do in life, but at the same time I felt a deep sense of sadness and shame.

The fact that the Church of England liturgically enables her ministers to speak well of an individual and their relationship at death, but not in life, is the cruelty, the hypocrisy, the irony, the sadness and the shame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mission & Evangelism: ecclesiology and liturgy. Reflecting on General Synod

I suspect that many or perhaps most of us have been to meetings where an awful lot of time is spent discussing ‘stuff’ before, eventually, the time comes to discuss the interesting (perhaps even contentious) items on the agenda. General Synod was a bit like this! We seemed to spend hours discussing the timetable for future meetings; hours that we will never get back!

Eventually we did get round to discussing homelessness, progress on Living in Love and Faith, the appalling consequences of addiction to gambling, the Crown Nomination Committee’s internal processes, the state of the nation, (oh yes, and, deanery synod length of service!) and, the synod’s focal topic, Mission and Evangelism.

Synod agreed that evangelism is a priority and that mission and evangelism on estates must be a particular priority (thank you Bishop Philip North). Synod also affirmed the absolute importance of youth evangelism. So far so good, mission and evangelism amongst the young and on the estates is indeed very good, but………

But, the overall tenor of debate felt a bit thin. It felt as though we all know and understand what we mean when we speak of mission and evangelism and that we are all working off a common template. From this ‘catholic’ participant-observer’s perspective the substance of the materials provided require an awful lot of ‘thickening out.’

I was privileged to be called to give my maiden speech in the evangelism debate. Mission and evangelism are close to my heart. I teach mission and evangelism to ordinands and readers in training and I passionately believe that the world needs ‘more and better Christians’ (++Temple) or ‘a bigger church making a bigger difference,’ (+ Paul Bayes). Our benefice collect includes the plea that ‘we may grow in number and in holiness.’  

I believe in conversion and desire to play my role in bringing people to a place of conversion. I am happy to accept that conversion may be an event or the fruit of a process, but would want to argue, in Benedictine terms, that ‘conversion of life,’ is the real witness to the work of the Spirit within individuals and crucially communities. I also argued in my speech that although conversion is central to mission and evangelism, mission and evangelism are not reducible to conversion: ‘The Church’s approach needs to include conversion at its core, but not to be reducible to conversion.’

The road we seem to be going down is a little thin – theologically and ecclesiologically –  because it feels a little individualistic, a little too protestant for a church which self-defines as ‘reformed catholic.’ In my speech I suggested that the Church as the Body of Christ, is an observable phenomena. The quality of the Church is therefore of uppermost importance. Ecclesiology in some ways precedes mission and evangelism.  And yes, although it isn’t trendy to say so, we really should be speaking to and amongst ourselves as a vital part of the ‘one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.’ Any claims to be an authentically evangelical church must start with self-reflection guided by the Spirit.

Evangelism isn’t a thing, or a technique, but the outworking of the Spirit. Evangelism must be rooted in prayer, not just informal prayer but also the formal prayers of the Church (hence the relationship between liturgy and evangelism) and, routed from prayer. What we pray day-by-day is as important in evangelical terms as what we do day-by-day. Prayer is the activity that shapes both who we are and what we do. Prayer is in some ways God focused self-talk.

Our internal questions are important questions, they are the qualitative questions. They are also prophetic questions.  As Anglicans the choices that we make, the attitudes we hold, and the liturgies we offer must, necessarily, underpin any missional and evangelistic strategies. Ecclesiology, liturgy and sacraments are our living proofs and validators. Ecclesiology speaks to the quality of our welcome and hospitality, our ‘tone and culture,’ whilst liturgy and sacraments are the living, real and textually enacted animators of doctrine.

In my speech I asked what mission and evangelism might mean ‘in multicultural and multi-faith contexts, or to people who might be “scared and wary” of the Church’s mission.’ I specifically asked  “what does it (mission and evangelism) say to the poor, disabled, gay, not sure, imprisoned, wealthy?’ Put another way ‘what is the vision glorious?’  What is the ‘vision glorious’ for the God-fearing Jew, Hindu, Sikh – for those who are unlikely to succumb to conversion? What is the ‘vision glorious’ for others of good-will? What is the ‘vision glorious’ for those who believe that the Church is just another institution or community likely to reject their very identity? For me these are the ‘thick’ missional and evangelistic questions.

I concluded my speech by saying that the primary goal of mission and evangelism should be the erosion of antipathy, for we need to be clear: most people couldn’t really care less about the church or the message we proclaim. That’s the stark and unbearable reality. The fruit of real and holistic evangelism should be the offer of affirmation, the brokering of rejection (for Jesus was rejected, frequently) and the erosion of antipathy and apathy. Mission and evangelism cannot be separated away from doctrine, ecclesiology and liturgy. My worry is that we – in the Church of England – are seeking to do so, leaving a residue that is just a little to thin.

Our understanding of Mission and Evangelism needs thickening out because ‘the world needs more and better Christians’, or ‘a bigger church making a bigger difference.’ 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey ho, hey ho & it’s off to synod we go

Next week General Synod convenes for its first meeting of 2019. For me it will be my first time at General Synod. I am one of the newbies.

I go with a mixture of enthusiasm, hope, and anxiety. Enthusiasm, hope, and anxiety pretty much describe how I feel about the state of the Church of England.

I am enthusiastic and hopeful because of the continuing emphasis on evangelism. As a moderately Catholic Anglican I firmly believe that the Church of England has a duty, no a mandate, to evangelize the people of England. If the Church can’t present the gospel and the story of Jesus Christ as good news – the best of news – then we really are wasting not only our own but everyone’s time.

For me evangelism must be holistic. I don’t think it can be straightforwardly  reduced to conversion (although conversion is, for sure, central to the task of evangelism) so I hope and pray for, ‘a bigger church, that makes a bigger difference’ (Bishop Paul Bayes) and passionately believe that, in Archbishop Temple’s words, the world needs ‘more and better Christians.’  

Society needs, badly needs, a robust and healthy church; one which models a better way of living, relating, caring and believing.

Society needs to witness a church which demonstrably stretches out to those on the margins, daring to care from them and, learn from them. Society, and her political leaders, need (even if they don’t recognise the need) to witness a church that understands the plight of the refugee, a church which constantly asks of itself (and others) the fundamental religious questions, such as ‘who is my neighbour?’ 

Society needs to witness a church that cares deeply about the devastating effects of addiction and economic exploitation. Society needs to witness a body that manifestly esteems young and old alike whilst caring for the created order.

The good news, for this newbie, is that the various synod papers make it abundantly clear that the church is deeply committed to such holistic modes of evangelism.

The Church of England also needs to model, for a bitterly and deeply divided society, that good disagreement is truly possible. Good disagreement, or disagreeing well, is a difficult ask of the church because as a motif it applies solely to the deeply contested areas of church life. And, we all know what these are: sexuality and gender.

I was interested and delighted to read the update paper (GS Misc 1200) on the ‘Living in Love and Faith Project,’ because the possibility of living, and hopefully living well, with disagreement appears to be woven into the very fabric of the text. It is hoped  that ‘church and community,’ will:

‘Have learned different ways of reading scripture together well,’  where this implies ‘resisting over simplification and inviting readers to think for themselves.’  GS Misc 1200 points towards a destination where ‘faithful and fair presentations of the breadth of inherited and emergent views’ will be respected and where these will inform ‘the Church’s theological tradition and pastoral and liturgical practice,’ in the recognition that the Church of England is by its very nature an ‘ecclesiology in the context of difference.’ 

If the Church of England can agree to, and absorb into, its pastoral and liturgical structures such difference the result will be the modelling of something truly remarkable for a broken and bitterly divided nation.

In order to live well together, and to remain united whist acknowledging our deeply held differences, requires all of us to commit to living in ‘love and charity with our neighbour,’ whilst making sure that we ‘do not presume to come to the table trusting in our own righteousness but in his manifold and great mercies.’ 

My anxiety? Well, it’s simply this: that we fail to incorporate good disagreement fully, pastorally, and liturgically, into the life of the church. If we fail to do so we will fail the test set by love and charity having fallen back on our own, perhaps misplaced, sense of righteousness. We will become just another broken and divided institution in a broken and divided world.

Hey ho, hey ho, it’s off to synod we go.

Talking of inclusivity, offence and rejection

Earlier this week it was suggested to me that in ‘my rush to be inclusive’  I may not have thought through the supposed negative consequences of ‘inclusivity.’

I still don’t know quite how I feel about this observation and am unclear whether the criticism implied that a) I haven’t given much, if any, serious theological thought to transgender (and other) issues, before coming to a conclusion or b) that, although I may have sought to think things through, my thought processes were deeply and structurally flawed.

I suspect that many of us (me included) like to play the ‘you haven’t really thought things through’ card when it appears that events have moved, or are moving, in a direction we find uncomfortable. It’s a fairly easy card to play, and in some ways I am happy to cede the point; I am not as thoughtful as I would like to be. I need to keep reflecting, thinking and praying about inclusivity for inclusivity, or a commitment to inclusivity, is about process, growth and pilgrimage.

The inclusive journey is a pilgrimage whose final destination is affirmation of the beloved other as a sacramental friend. Along the way I hope we / I may learn to jettison the less than fulsome and decidedly unfriendly offers of mere accommodation and luke-warm tolerance from our ruck sacks.

I think that I would also like to suggest that my journey towards whatever level of commitment I now possess to inclusivity has been slow, grinding, sometimes tortured, and forged in the hard reality of everyday family and communal life. It’s been incarnational and there has genuinely been no rush. For me it has been a case of real and diverse people dismantling the bricks and mortar of innate preference, prejudice, unwarranted fear and tribal loyalty.

And yet now I feel a sense of urgency.  I also feel compelled to contradict those who say ‘slow down’ and ‘the timings not quite right,’ for in reality the timing will never be perfectly right. To those who say that to act too quickly is to undermine the unity of the church, I would want to say that justice must always precede peace in unity.

In fact I would go further and say that any peace in unity worth having must always be built on justice; justice for the beloved other, where justice means an open invitation to sit, listen, converse and eat at the same sacramental table, and bathe in the same the same sacramental waters, on equal terms, as friends ‘in Christ.’ 

This Wednesday I was deeply challenged by the lectionary readings for the Eucharist (Hebrews 12, 4-7 & 11-15 and Mark 6, 1-6). In the gospel reading we find and, must allow ourselves to be challenged, by the following words:

‘This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too are they not here with us? And they would not accept him,’ (The Jerusalem Bible – in the NRSV we are told ‘they took offence at him.’)

Jesus was rejected because the good people, the decent people, the morally upright people, found him offensive. That’s the truth of the matter.

But, why did they find him so offensive that they would not, or could not, accept him? Was it just jealously or could there have been other reasons: reasons so shocking that Mark can only hint at them?

Could it have been that Jesus’ family was just a bit too common? Or, is it possible that there may have been something truly different, or other, about James, Joset, Jude, Simon or one of his unnamed sisters?

The answer is we don’t know, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t respond to Mark’s narrative with our imaginations. What if Jesus’ commitment to justice and inclusivity was forged through the messy experience of his own family life? It’s a thought and perhaps one worth playing with, as the Magnificat puts it, in the imagination of ‘our hearts.’

The reading from the letter to the Hebrews is no less challenging:

‘Always be wanting peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord. Be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God.’

The notion of peace, shalom (seeing and willing the good in and for the beloved yet intrinsically different  other) is directly equated with holiness and, frighteningly, salvation. Now, that is a sobering thought!

Jesus, the offensive Jesus, was not accepted, in fact he was rejected, whilst the scribe to the Hebrews insists that we, the Christian community, should ‘be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God.’ In all honesty these are lessons I have been slow to learn, and am still slow in learning, and yet I urgently want to belong to a church which ensures that no one is deprived of the grace of God;’ a church where all are given a place at the same sacramental table, and in the same sacramental waters, on equal terms, as friends.

p.s. I have unashamedly ‘borrowed’ several ideas from Bishop Paul Bayes wonderful new book ‘The Table.’ Paul I hope you don’t mind?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking of baptismal rites. It’s time for the bishops to stand firm.

All is not well in Church of England land. That much is clear. And, as usual, the subjects we are falling out about are sex and gender.

The catalyst for the latest outbreak of outrage is, of course, the House of Bishops decision to issue guidance notes to be used when offering the Rite of Baptismal Reaffirmation to a trans person wishing to ‘re-appropriate’ their baptism.  According to the Guardian ‘2,155 clergy and senior lay members of the church have demanded the guidance be revised, postponed or withdrawn.’

It will be interesting to see the episcopal response. I hope that it is calm, measured and, above all, kind to the trans community. I sincerely hope that the trans people seeking to re-appropriate and affirm their identity ‘in Christ’ are not sacrificed on the altar of false unity. I hope that the bishops have the courage, compassion and confidence to speak truth back to assumed power.

I also hope that the bishops refuse to capitulate to the numbers, which as David Baker, a signatory to the letter, has suggested are, in any case, entirely besides the point, as well as notions of so-called seniority. The bishops must not allow themselves to be swayed by the lukewarm thinking of theo-utilitarian ethical discourse and perceptions of seniority and power.

In considering whether to re-appraise their prior commitment to Trans Christians the bishops should reflect not just on the content of the open letter but, on some of the quotes given to the press, for in these quotes is to be found the yeast of beliefs and assumptions behind the composition of the letter. The quotes act as a commentary to the plain text of the letter.

The Guardian reports that ‘one member of the archbishops’ council, the Rev Ian Paul, suggested church leaders were “allowing themselves to be hijacked by these very small special interest groups”.’

I have two problems with Ian’s analysis: First, church leaders (bishops) have not allowed themselves to be hijacked by a very small special interest group! It was General Synod ‘wot did it.’ It was the overwhelming vote in favour of the Blackburn Motion, at General Synod, which paved the way for the subsequent process which resulted in the issuing of the Guidance Notes.

To suggest that the The House of Bishops was ‘high-jacked,’ is a deeply theo-political analysis of recent church history.

But, my bigger concern is this: so what if the Christian trans community are a ‘very small special interest group?’ The fact that this community is relatively small, and that hitherto it has been largely kept in the ecclesial dark, is the point. Reaching out to those on the margins, bringing them back into the fullness of community, affirming them as God’s beloved, allowing them to reshape the ‘Anglican Core’ seems to me to be an authentic Christian response. Failing to pay attention to them because they are a ‘very small special interest group,’ is to pass by on the other side.

Edward Dowler, the Archdeacon of Hastings, suggested (again to the Guardian) that the bishops “might have been more circumspect about appearing to lend their support to an increasingly high-profile ideological movement whose aims and methods sit uncomfortably with the Christian gospel and are now being increasingly questioned throughout western society.” 

Again he declines to acknowledge that it was General Synod, en masse, ‘wot did it.’ The ‘aims and methods’ he so clearly disapproves of were the fruit of the synodical process. It may, for him, be a bitter fruit to swallow, but to suggest that the bishops have capitulated in the face of ‘an increasingly high-profile ideological movement’ is, once again, a highly creative re-writing of recent church history. The chilliest feature of his argument is, however, the re-categorization of real people as ideology.

When the House of Bishops wrote their guidelines they rightly spoke to, and engaged with, trans Christians. The fact that Trans Christians are a ‘very small special interest group’ was taken seriously. Their ‘smallness’ was not regarded as a negative, but as a positive. Canon Rachel Mann’s reflection (as quoted in the Daily Telegraph) on her involvement in the process, and the subsequent issuance of the now contested guidelines, is beautiful, dignified and graceful:

“This is a classic example of Anglican thoughtfulness. This is a set of guidance that addresses the deep human desire that we all have, whether trans or non-trans, to reaffirm our baptismal commitment to Jesus Christ.” 

So here is the paradox: to suspend or jettison the guidelines, and the use of the Rite of the Reaffirmation of Baptism, would itself be a capitulation to ‘an increasingly high-profile ideological movement,’ and this is something that the bishops should avoid. To deny a small group of people a rite through which to re-appropriate, and re-affirm, their commitment to being ‘in Christ,’ in order to appease 2,000 or so loud and angry voices would be an act of huge betrayal.

The Bishops have listened, first to synod, then to trans Christians. There has been real integrity in both their ‘aims and methods.’ They  listened, engaged and acted. They did so with pastoral sensitivity and liturgical flexibility.

The trans Christian community should not be sacrificed on the altar of conservative Christian ideology and it matters not a jot whether such ideology is publicly endorsed by 2,155 signatories, or even more.

It is time for the bishops to stand firm in the ‘hope that has been set before’ them by a group of people who should be of ‘special interest’ to the Church.

 

 

 

 

Speaking in praise of the elderly and the young.

I think it is fair, although perhaps it is unfair, to say that we inhabit in a culture which seems intent on capturing the spirit of the young.

Young is deemed to be exciting and future orientated. ‘The young are the future,’ is an oft-repeated phrase. The church also seems, at times, to be obsessed with the capturing the young. Attracting the young is, of course, important, but on what basis and on what terms? A supplementary question might be ‘at whose expense?’

Putting the young on a pedestal, seeking to attract, or even capture them, as THE priority, may very possibly be unfair, belittling, and damaging to young and old alike.

In church, just like in culture, we need, I think, to be careful when we say ‘the young are the future,’ for surely all, potentially, have a future in the church? And, doesn’t the church as a concrete entity in the here and now exist so that all can worship, irrespective of age? Put another way shouldn’t the church, if she truly aspires to be a Holy Communion, seek to be genuinely All Age?

When we speak in church of the young we often seem to do so on the basis of a set of fairly flaky assumptions. We think that the young want to be placed into a clearly demarcated group, one that is treated differently from everyone else. We also tend to assume that they don’t want to join in activities with other, more elderly, congregants. We, perhaps, tend to think that the young are anti tradition and that, somehow, the church’s grammar and practices cannot be of any real relevance to their lives.

Research (see Rooted in the Church Summary Report November 2016) discredits this view: ‘The importance placed by young people on inclusion within the whole church family is reflected in their preferred style of worship (the report claims that what they appreciate most is ”blended worship”); while they value age-specific leadership and activities, they do not always want to be artificially separated from the main church.’

I strongly, firmly, categorically, believe that the young, alongside those of riper years, or even in ‘holy communion’ with those of riper years, are perfectly capable of absorbing and being nurtured through the church’s liturgical and sacramental traditions. The young are far more catholic in their tastes than we sometimes dare admit.

To suggest otherwise, to seek to impose new forms of relevance on the young, is to seek to capture, rather than liberate, their spirits. It is also to patronize the elderly and the church should never do this, for the elderly, just like the young, are a gift to the church. The elderly, just like the young, are the church’s humanity.

A church without the elderly isn’t in any meaningful sense a real, living and dynamic church. In order to flourish the church needs to value both the ‘widows and orphans,’ (James 1, 27) in her midst.

The Church needs to capture, or recapture, its appreciation of, and for, the elderly. So far this year I have taken the funeral of three elderly members of our congregation. All three made a significant, although quiet, contribution to the life and vitality of the church. All three contributed financially and spirituality. All three gave from their wallets and gave from their hearts. All three cared deeply about the local church and her future. All three had over the course of many years learnt to talk about their faith without embarrassment and without the fear of ridicule.  All three prayed each and every day for the church even when they could no longer come to church. Their ongoing and final gift to the church was prayer, and for that the church should be grateful. All three modeled something special and beautiful: fidelity to the Church, come-what may, through the joys and tribulations of life.

Many years ago St. Benedict provided an insight into what it means to be a genuinely ‘All Age’ community. It is clear that Benedict had reverence for both the young and those of riper years alike. Chapters 3 and 63 of the Rule make this clear:

‘We have insisted that all the community should be summoned for such consultation because it often happens that the Lord makes the best course clear to one of the younger members,’ (Chapter 3)

&

‘Juniors in the community should show due respect for their seniors , and the seniors should love and care for their juniors. When they address each other, it should not simply by name, but seniors call their juniors brother or sister, and juniors address their seniors as nonnus – father, or nonna – mother.’

In Benedict’s monastery there was no artificial separation: the juniors and the seniors shared in, and contributed fully to, the life of the community. Benedict saw both the young and the old as integral and vital to the life of the community. Benedict aimed to build communities where all could flourish and none need fear, where everyone was treated equally and with due respect and where age was simply an epistemological fact.

So should we.

 

 

 

 

 

Talking of being in Christ as the gateway to radical new inclusivity

‘In Christ’ is one of the most beautiful of all New Testament phrases. All Christians should delight at being ‘in Christ.’

John Stott, in his 1983  address at the Leadership Lunch following the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. said that  the expressions “in Christ,” “in the Lord,” and “in him” occur 164 times in the letters of Paul alone.’  ‘In Christ’ is a vitally important and deeply sacred theological concept, yet it is one that is often used indiscriminately and with pastoral insensitivity. Sadly, it is sometimes used to knockdown and exclude rather than to build up and affirm.

For St. Paul being in Christ clearly trumped all other temporal identity markers, but that is a very long way from suggesting that he believed that being ‘in Christ’ rendered all other identity markers superfluous or irrelevant.

And yet, in today’s church, in Christ’ is frequently deployed theo-politically. It is often used to suggest that all our other human characteristics and relationships are worth nothing because the only really important thing is that we are ‘in Christ.’  

When ‘in Christ’ is deployed in this way it is often done from a position of significant privilege and moral certainty.  Of course the irony is that sometimes those who use ‘in Christ’ in this way are frequently keen to highlight the nature of their own temporal identity markers and relationships.

The term ‘in Christ’ is, I think, so special, so sacred, that we all need to exercise extreme care when using it. It should never be used to suggest that past hurts and pains don’t matter, or even worse in some ways, weren’t real. It should also never be used to rank, diminish or establish hierarchies of (human) being; ‘in Christ’ is the great equalizer. ‘In Christ’ always seeks to include, not exclude.

‘In Christ’ is an expression of divine hospitality. ‘In Christ’ includes and raises up the hitherto excluded, marginalized and ostracized whilst asking the privileged to acknowledge their status. ‘In Christ’ is the gift to the many rather than the prerogative of a self-elected few.

‘In Christ’ is a doorway, or Gate, to the acceptance of greater diversity and ‘radical new Christian inclusivity in the life of the Church.’ ‘In Christ’ is the chalice that holds all who commit to love God and neighbour irrespective of difference. ‘In Christ’ is the sacred word animating the sacramental action of a radically inclusive God.

‘In Christ’ celebrates God’s creativity and the infinite and glorious diversity inherent in creation. In Christ doesn’t mean nothing else matters. It means that everything else matters.

The most famous ‘In Christ’  verse is probably Galatians 3, 28: in which we read that there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ 

To borrow a phrase from the Three Musketeers surely this means that the spirit of ‘in Christ’ is ‘all for one and one for all?’ Commitment, as John Stott suggested, to God, and to each other, is the glue that ultimately binds us together ‘in Christ.’

In Christ doesn’t diminish our differences, temporal identities, and experiences but instead receives them, blesses them, and distributes them in, through, and beyond the Church.