RIAZAT BUTT writes in the Guardian today of Bishop Gene Robinson’s plan to retire “early” in January 2013. I imagine that January 2013 can hardly seem early enough for the good bishop. I continue to thank God for Bishop Gene and his family. And for his mission oriented Diocese of New Hampshire. Should he find time to visit England in “retirement” I would be delighted to welcome him here; delighted to thank him personally for being an exemplar – often a “wounded healer” – often a suffering exemplar – of the compassionate love held out to all of us by our Christ. I wish Bishop Gene continued energy and blessing for the coming years, and will pray that the grace of God will anoint and raise up a wise and compassionate new bishop to serve as his coadjutor.
But I hope you’ll forgive me for majoring for a moment on a comment said to have been made by Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney. Riazat Butt writes:
In a statement the archbishop of Sydney, the Rt Rev Peter Jensen, said: “It is true that his consecration was one of the flashpoints for a serious realignment of the whole Communion. But many things have happened since then. Gafcon is the future.”
GAFCON – (“Global Anglican Future Conference”) is the future? Then, Kyrie eleison, God help me, I must have misunderstood – for nearly thirty years – what my vocation as a Christian priest is really all about. You know, I have to raise my hand. I have to tell you that for all this time I’ve been preaching and teaching about, and believing and praying for, the day when THE KINGDOM OF GOD is the future.
And there’s more. I’m going to keep right on preaching that the Kingdom of God, the “New Jerusalem”, is the future. I don’t want to get caught up in playing the game of semantics with the archbishop, however. Nor do I intend to afford him any disrespect. So I’m going to dare to hope that he and I are really aspiring to the same thing. Not GAFCON as the future, but rather the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom of Peace: a kingdom where there is neither male nor female; a kingdom in which there are no debates about “whose wife (out of seven possible options) is she?”(see today’s Gospel: Luke 20.27-38) ; a kingdom in which there is neither pain, nor crying, nor dying anymore. If GAFCON really were “the future” then I’d have to join Bishop Gene in announcing early retirement plans.
Meantime, I thank God that the future is much, much, much bigger than that. And neither plummeting attendance figures, (“only” about 500 people through the doors here this morning, and five newly baptised), nor plummeting diocesan or parochial finances, nor anything else upon earth can change that fact.
Blest are the pure in heart,
for they shall see our God,
the secret of the Lord is theirs,
their soul is Christ’s abode …