Yesterday, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to “uphold the doctrine of marriage” while simultaneously offering ‘Prayers of Love and Faith’ to bless opposite-sex and same-sex couples, at any significant stage of their relationship.
In doing so, Synod and most of all the house of Bishops have told the world, and Almighty God, that they will consider holy, that which God calls sin.
It may not have been unforeseen, some have been predicting this moment for years, but that has done little, or nothing, to reduce the level of grief that faithful Anglicans are experiencing here in England and indeed around the world.
It is not surprising, this is a loss, a bereavement, for all involved. It is grievous and seeing and feeling all the classic symptoms of grief is to be expected.
There is and will be shock. A numbness as the reality of the decision hits home and its full implications emerge.
There is and will be denial. A desperate, but understandable, desire to hide from the seriousness of what has happened – that by closing eyes and focusing on good, local ministry it somehow can be made less real.
There is and will be anger. Anger at bishops and church leaders for not being good shepherds. Anger at the voices that lured them away from God’s word. Anger that more was not done personally or nationally to try and stop it. Anger as consciences and responses differ.
There is and will be bargaining – a hope that the hurt can somehow be assuaged. The aspirin of some kind of ‘settlement’ or the drug of endless ‘what ifs.’ For a while, the search for a different outcome, a way of making things better, may take the edge off.
There is and will be depression. Not just sadness, but the blackness of a potentially overwhelming spiritual and physical lethargy. A sense of hopelessness that pervades everything.
There will, by the grace of God, come a time when there is acceptance of what has happened, and plans for the future can be made.
There is no right way approach such a bereavement. No one path.
But let all grieve well; trusting not in princes but in the one who rose from the dead. May care for others and patience abound.
O merciful Father, you have taught us in your holy Word that
you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look
with pity on the sorrows of your servants. Remember us, O
Lord, in mercy; nourish our souls with patience; comfort us with
a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon us;
and give us peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.