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Statement regarding Prayers for Prince George

Nearly two years ago, I wrote a piece about how campaigners might change the Church of England to make it more inclusive of LGBT people. The post was copied and pasted elsewhere and commented on widely at the time. In those two years I can’t remember any negative comment about it.

It included the suggestion that the church might change faster if a member of the Royal Family wanted to get married to a same-sex partner in 25 years time. It speculated that a 27 year old Prince George might well find that the Church of England would allow him to be able to enter into such a marriage.

“If people don’t want to engage in campaigning in this way, they do in England have another unique option, which is to pray in the privacy of their hearts (or in public if they dare) for the Lord to bless Prince George with a love, when he grows up, of a fine young gentleman. A royal wedding might sort things out remarkably easily though we might have to wait 25 years for that to happen. Who knows whether that might be sooner than things might work out by other means?”

This week, this old post has received much media attention, many people presuming that it was a new post and part of a commentary about the Royal Family rather than the church. The post was entirely about the church and its policies around LGBT inclusion.

I could spend the next few weeks defending that post and keep reminding people what it was originally about. However, it seems to me that isn’t likely to be fruitful. The ironic comment that I made quite a while ago could be seen as hurtful to members of the Royal Family, a group of people whom I actually rather admire.

I’m sorry that something that I wrote has been interpreted in the way that it has. It was not my intention to cause hurt and I regret that this has led to the current focus on Prince George.

The issues about the church and its capacity to welcome same-sex couples who want to be married remain important. However, I won’t be part of a media circus that puts further pressure on members of the Royal Family. They need peace and young members of the Royal Family need privacy too.

Sadly, this has now become a story entirely about Prince George. I’ve had countless invitations to appear in the press and media over the next week. I’ve refused them all and will continue to do so. I have found most of the invitations rather tasteless – as though media organisations actually wanted to have a prolonged conversation about a small boy rather than discuss the issues of justice and fairness that I was trying to raise. We’ve seen media frenzies around the Royal Family before. No doubt we will see them again. I’m sorry that I inadvertently provoked this one by something I wrote some time ago.

I tend to try to accept media invitations when I think I can say something positive about the love of God – love that is for everyone and which is known in kindness, generosity and grace. I see none of that in any of this. I could stoutly defend what I wrote and stubbornly insist for days that it was right. But arguing the rights and wrongs will still end up causing harm and not love and love matters more than political point scoring.

The debate about the church and sexuality will go on. I’m not interested in continuing it through a conversation about Prince George. I would urge others, those who agree with me strongly and those who disagree with me strongly to turn our attentions to the actual matter at hand.

Dear St George – here’s 3 dragons I’d like slaying

Today is St George’s Day. Cue articles about how we know almost nothing about St George and bewilderment as to how he became patron saint of England.

Instead of that, here’s a few dragons that I like to see expertly slayed in our own day.

1 – Foodbanks in the UK.

When I went to the USA a few years ago on sabbatical I was filled with both admiration and horror at the amount of food that the churches were giving away in foodbank operations. Wonder at the sheer commitment and horror at the need. I proudly said that this kind of thing would never become a reality in the UK as we had a good social security system in place and if anyone ever tried to change that then the population would rise up against whoever was being so foolish. Sadly I was wrong – I came back to foodbank Britain not the Britain I’d left some months before. It isn’t nationalism or unionism that will stop foodbanks either. To kill this dragon we need a St George to rise up in the political world and bring an end to benefit sanctions and and ensure the timely processing of benefit claims.

2  – Xenophobia, anglophobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism etc

The dragon of racism is stalking us again. Oh for a St George who could kill it once and for all instead of merely maiming it. People are just people.

It is difficult to believe that we are now having to tackle a real threat from the political right to the progress that we had made in freeing Europe from the tyranny of war. It is equally hard to believe that Jewish communities in the UK complain about insecurity. It grieves me greatly that my Muslim neighbours are often presumed to be complicit in terror.

3 – Same-sex marriage

This was a baby dragon that we adopted as a pet but the truth is, it has now grown up and become a little frightening. Whereas once same-sex marriage was a rallying cry for the cause, now the very words are being used against those who want equality, particularly in the church. We don’t want same-sex marriage in church, we want marriage to be open to straight couples and same-sex couples alike. One institution, one blessing, one God, one sacrament. It is time for same-sex marriage to die.