The talk in church circles is still about sexuality.
The question of sexuality having long been settled in the world beyond the stained glass, the talk is of tomorrow’s Heineken Cup Final at Twickenham, where two Irish provinces will line out against each other; of the champions league final, where, among many soccer fans, there will be strong support for Bayern Munich; of Eurovision and Jedward’s chances; of the opening games of the All Ireland football and hurling championships. Some more serious people talk of the financial crisis and the forthcoming referendum. No-one else has the church’s fixation with sexuality.
There was a conversation in our house last year. It was after half past ten at night, it had been a long day and we sat drinking tea at the kitchen table. It was the Church of Ireland General Synod the following week, something that had greater appeal in one part of our family than it did in others. There had been discussion about the business before the synod.
‘I am wondering about whether to vote for the Anglican Covenant.’
‘I am wondering about Rob Kearney’.
‘The Leinster and Ireland fullback – I am wondering what Leinster are going to do when he returns to the team. Isa Nacewa has been brilliant at fullback’.
‘What’s that got to do with anything?’
‘What’s the Anglican Covenant got to do with anything?’
‘So is Rob Kearney. In fact, far more people in my parish would be concerned about Rob Kearney than they would about some church agreement that has nothing to do with them’.
‘You don’t take things seriously’.
‘No, the problem is that the church doesn’t take people seriously’.
A year on from the conversation, and nothing has changed.
The church still thinks it can set the agenda and that its decisions will shape the world it inhabits. There are still those who think they can roll back the inexorable processes of history, just as there are still those who think they can roll back the progress of science.
The church does not speak to the people who would know who Rob Kearney was, but who would have little idea who the Archbishop of Armagh or the Archbishop of Canterbury might be. It has lost sight of the ministerial style of Jesus of Nazareth. It has forgotten that the incarnation was about God coming down to be with the ordinary folk.
Jesus said hardly anything about sexuality, but said a lot about the importance of ordinary people.