The Bishop of Sheffield and Mutual Flourishing: a Guest Blog

A first for this blog, a guest piece, here from Mother Alice Whalley, responding to The Guardian piece from Martyn Percy, this piece first appeared on Mother Alice’s Facebook page (24/02/17) and appears here with her kind permission :

“I don’t normally write things on social media. It’s such a crass and unforgiving place for discussion. In situations like this (and I’m not going to mention a specific situation, though you might guess what that is) I normally post some pious quotation from a saint about charity. But today I’m not, at least, I’m going to say something else first.

Mutual flourishing. Nobody seems quite sure what it means, and it’s certainly an Anglican fudge. What it doesn’t mean is uniformity. What it doesn’t mean is my way is the only way. What it doesn’t mean is that somehow anyone of a different view is somehow an affront to my being and an infringement of my rights. Ordination is a gift that nobody is being denied.

For what it’s worth, to me it means that my ministry would be so much poorer were it not for those who are different to me. It was a traditionalist who nagged incessantly until I went to see a DDO. It was a traditionalist who wrote my reference and dropped me off at my BAP. It was a traditionalist who waited outside the Bishop’s office ready to take me off for a glass of champagne to celebrate the news of my selection. There were traditionalists who trained me and formed me and nurtured me into the priest I am today. There were about 15 of ‘them’ at my ordination to the priesthood, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles to be there. They prayed for me and loved me and shared a genuine joy as they came and received my blessing. My ministry almost certainly wouldn’t exist at all without those people.

And I don’t just talk about traditionalists. My ministry would be poorer without the women priests who have supported and guided me. It would be poorer without the conservative evangelicals. And I cannot be so arrogant as to make this only about the Church of England. My ministry would be poorer without the Baptists and Roman Catholics with whom I have shared the joys and sorrows of ministry in Moulsecoomb.

So, please do not assume the ministry of others who do not share your views will somehow make your ministry invalid or poorer, for you will be the only one making your ministry poorer if you do. And do not comment away on social media without first truly understanding the point of view of the other. So much of the mess we have got ourselves in is because we say ‘this is what I think, and this is what I think that you think’ without really knowing either. If the ministry of those others is a ministry that is truly centred on the love of Christ and his kingdom, then it can do nothing but make your ministry richer. It can do nothing but help to build the kingdom and nourish the health of the church. It can help make new disciples and bring more people to know the love and joy that we are fortunate to already share. That is mutual flourishing.

“Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favourable light at all times and under all circumstances” St Vincent de Paul.”

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