While Christians should indeed examine social and cultural changes critically, the fearfulness of the Pope about shifting attitudes to gender and sexual orientation seems excessive, says Savitri Hensman. Christmas should be a time of celebration in response to God’s generous love, through which barriers are broken down and humanity’s potential fulfilled.
On the matter of marriage equality, the recent UK government announcement focused less on the loving hope of those who will gain, and more on others’ fears, in response to the negativity of some church leaders who oppose change, notes Savitri Hensman. The public image this projects is strongly discriminatory, and the churches are missing a huge opportunity to witness to the all-embracing love of God.
The Church of England’s attempts to placate a small minority strongly opposed to women’s ordination have plunged it into crisis, without satisfying these opponents, says Savi Hensman. What is the way forward now? Deep theological and practical questions need to be addressed, and the answers explained in ways that those who are not professional theologians can understand.
Father Michael Rodrigo’s life and witness in Sri Lanka reflect the importance of perseverance, hope and faith in a better future, says Savi Hensman. This remarkable man still has something to say today, when all too many people live precariously in a divided and often violent world.
If Welby can hold on to his emphasis on enabling ‘ordinary’ Christians, and those of their neighbours who are seeking a more just and compassionate world, he can offer the kind of leadership needed at a time when idols have been falling, says Savi Hensman, a long-standing commentator on Anglican affairs and church and society issues.
When UK chancellor George Osborne and other ministers pledged to slash benefits further, and remove basic rights, while protecting the assets of millionaires, some words of the prophet Zechariah two-and-a-half millennia ago seemed appropriate, says Savi Hensman. She challenges people of faith to develop a more critical perspective on leadership, both political and religious.
If a future Archbishop of Canterbury were outspoken in defence of church privilege or the right to discriminate or exploit, this could do more harm than good, writes Savi Hensman. It is also important not to expect one man, whatever his gifts and office, to substitute for the wider church community.
Those across the country who care about human rights for all should oppose the trend to push disabled people into cheap and cheerless institutional living, says Savi Hensman. While councils do indeed face difficult financial challenges, taking away basic rights from any section of the community is not the answer.
The Church of England has still not positively resolved the issue of women bishops, notes Savi Hensman. Both deeper listening and clearer leadership are needed in affirming a vision of an inclusive, mission-oriented church open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Last-minute changes have complicated the Church of England’s slow progress towards allowing women to be bishops, says Savi Hensman. Attempts to placate opponents are unhelpfully stalling the process further.