Monday, January 30, 2017


As the world goes mad, we all have a responsibility to try to welcome back some sanity.

This happens in different ways, and we will all work out how we should act differently. I think that's fine. But sitting by the sidelines, flicking on the news and switching to an old episode of Friends instead is not an option.

Not anymore.

We need to be friends with people who hold different opinions to us - we need to care for them and see the humanity in those who disagree. We need to listen and talk and try to hold our own prejudices at bay just long enough so that a conversation might be slightly more civilised than a shouting match.

When generosity and kindness have left the room, the only thing to do is to invite them back in. Someone has to. It might as well be us.

This means we lose arguments in order to win people. People always matter more.

And yet...

And yet, there comes a moment when the world goes so mad that amongst all of this (which always, always applies) there come 'line in the sand' moments. Moments which define a time. Moments which we realise when they are happening, and which we will all look back on and for which we will all have to answer - what did you do then?

I hit such a personal moment a few years back when I realised that I had totally accepted for most of my life that I was a second-class human being because I was gay. Seeing that I had genuinely believed and lived this out clearly helped me change - and helped me as I worked through my beliefs as a Christian, and my understanding of the Scriptures. (Which, of course, have no room at all for such an idea. Those of you who don't like St Paul need to sort yourselves out; we have a lot to thank him for.) This drives me passionately, and when I see anyone treating anyone else as if they are somehow 'less', I will always side with the powerless party. Even if I don't like their cause.

Christ is the light that lightens every person; we are all made in God's image; these are foundational and precious truths. People are people.

Western Society is hitting a profound moment right now because powerful people are taking their moment to soft-pedal the equal humanity of all. They do it for all sorts of plausible reasons. Our safety, our economic well-being, our ability to define ourselves; but the message is the same. We are better; they are less; let's assert ourselves!

It's ungodly, it's unChristian, it's unBiblical, and it's inhumane. It's dehumanising.

So - what are we doing in the midst of these days? Flicking from the news to old episodes of 'Friends'? ("Seriously - they were on a break!")

Or talking to folk we disagree with? Listening to opinions we find hard, but they come from real people, so let's understand that and give all people the right to be people. All people. The ones we like and the ones we don't. And let's make sure that in winning this battle for the right for people to be people we don't simply adopt methods we would rail against in others; so no shouting down, no belittling.

Truth must out. Honesty must be our language. Generosity and kindness are our friends; we bring them into every room.

Those of us who are Christians know we follow a Lord who raises folk up, he doesn't grind them into the ground. For any reason. And we are his followers, with the responsibility to work as he does. No other way is acceptable.

For his command is really simple. Jesus says: "Love God. Love your neighbour. Oh, and by the way, love your enemy too. Any questions?"

Saturday, January 28, 2017


So on Holocaust Memorial Day 2017, two gifts:

In England, the House of Bishops published a report declaring that gay people shouldn't have all the same rights as straight people.

In the US, Donald Trump signed an executive order banning Muslims from entering that country.

Both of these are banner headlines, both of these statements lack nuance, but both of these things are essentially true.

And both of these things are appropriate gifts for Holocaust Memorial Day, which, after all, reminds us that discrimination and prejudice are timeless evils which we must always battle hard to defeat. They are not about other people in the past. They lie in our own souls, and we cannot afford to point the finger at anyone else.

This is today. This is now.

As Steve Turner said -
History repeats
Itself. Has to.
Nobody listens.  

Friday, January 27, 2017


So the Church of England House of Bishops today published a paper on Marriage and Same Sex Relationships. There's a link to the official press report on it here.

The headline is - it's a fudge.

To precis:
Nothing changes, but we want to make it clear we welcome gay people. Marriage doctrine ain't gonna change - it's very much about one man, one woman - and whilst we thought about recommending (or even just commending) some liturgy for clergy to help mark parishioners celebrating civil partnerships or gay marriages, we thought better of it. More, whilst we want to be really generous about how we consider gay people in ministry and in the church generally, gay sex isn't really on so clergy need to remember that if you aren't in a heterosexual marriage you have to be celibate. Though please, we do understand that loving people matters as a missional church and we'd hate to be heard to say anything that gives any other kind of impression.


To respond:
I saw a bishop yesterday. I'm seeing another tomorrow. Both of them godly people. Both of them very straight, both of them married with kids, both of them evangelical, both of them kind and wonderful men. But as they are members of the House of Bishops, this is what they get from me.
I'm not like you. My world is a different place. I've tried to be like you, to see the world your way, to live like you, and it made me very, very ill. Now here's the thing - in the Scriptures, salvation & healing are the same root word. And when I accepted who & how God made me to be, not only did I become well physically, I became well spiritually. Salvation came at a deeper level.
And the follow on from this is not that I need you to change, not that I need you to see the world my way or be like me - but I'd love you to allow me to be me. I know, I know - "...but the Scriptures..." Here's the thing. We read them differently, you and I, because our worlds are different. You have these glasses on, this world view you carry round with you that makes you see certain things and suddenly there's a huge red flag waving around. It's not there for me. Anything but. Don't worry, I know I wear glasses too. Actually - my concern is that on this issue, because you are in the massive majority you don't always realise you have your glasses on and you don't get the effect they have. Because I'm constantly a foreigner living in your strange land, I always, always do.
But still I think we might both be able to work together. Equal rights aren't like pie: more for me doesn't mean less for you.
If anything, it works the other way.
Because it's a salvation issue, a healing thing. And the more whole I am, the more whole you are, because we are part of the same body and St Paul writes that if one part of the body is sick the whole body is.

So please: stop being so kind and polite and start being good.
I will fight this fight not because I need you to accept that I am as human as you - I know I am, and every time you publish something that doesn't quite get it, I'll remind you - but there are others who see what you say, who see your smile and your dog collar and your purple and your mitre and who lose something of their value in God. On your watch. On our watch.

Come on, there are words in this report that say we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. Have the courage to push those words to their logical, Biblical, godly conclusion. Either all people are people, or we aren't. And if we are -

And if we are, then those glasses of yours may need adjusting.
Because in Christ we are here to live to the full and to love God and one another. Just like you.

Sunday, January 08, 2017


Does anyone know who I am?

I am one of the Magi, one of the Wise Men who visited the infant Jesus. But beyond that, I seem to have been mislaid by history.

They have made up a name for me. Some of you may have heard of Caspar, Melchior & Balthazar. Invented names. In one land I am Rustaham-Gondofarr Suren-Pahlav, which is exotic, but still a fiction. So who am I? 

Am I a king? Maybe, probably not. Were there really three of us at all? No-one knows, it’s just a convention – we brought three gifts, that’s all that’s recorded, & people presume we brought one gift each. But who knows? 

Some think I’m an astrologer. A hippy on a camel, doubtless with strange eastern habits, greeting his new-born guru. And I think they mistake Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh as evidence of extravagance, when we meant them as tokens of worship. It’s not my favourite version of me. 

In the history books, Gentiles always make me a Gentile. “Look! Non-Jewish people get to see baby Jesus!” Hmm. I understand this desire: if I am someone like you, then someone like you was there when Jesus was born. So everyone wants to make me in their own image. I wonder if this is how God feels sometimes? 

Hundreds of years before us, there was a Jewish man who lived in our land, who so pleased our King that he made him chief of the Magi. Some of you may have heard of Daniel. He has a book in the Bible. His writings made some of us look out for certain signs that one day God himself would step into the world to make everything new. And if we should see these signs, we should drop everything and go to worship him.

My friends and I used to debate what Daniel’s words might have meant.  

How could God walk the earth? Not since the Garden of Eden has this happened. What would God do – just appear, or actually be born as a baby? I remember saying I’d need some pretty big sign to persuade me this could happen!

And one day, one of my friends simply lifted a single finger and pointed to the sky.

That night we set out. We journeyed west. There was a small scare as we made a stop-over in Jerusalem and suffered a visit from Herod’s secret police. We told him we only wanted to worship the King of the Jews. He seemed about to get very angry, before smiling thinly and agreeing he would like to join us – would we tell him when we had found this King?

And we did find him. When we got there, he was a small child in a small house in a small village, yet in that room all our questions and questing, all our words and debates, all our lives and indeed our very selves were stilled by a deep underlying silence leading into a sort of helplessness before God. We fell to our knees and worshipped Jesus. 

The whole world was in that room with us. I swear it. And you may not know my name, history may have mislaid me, but I found myself in that place as I worshipped, as I had never found myself before. 

This is who I am. 

This is who I am meant to be. A human being worshipping my Creator in the midst of His creation, and you can take everything else I have from me – my riches, my pride, my name. 

For in giving my worship, my love, my all here in this place, I have now a treasure beyond my wildest dreams.