Family allusions for the church work great when they focus on belonging and the closeness of affinity. We belong to one another and any breaking of that unity is a fracture in who we are. This was the message of the Archbishop of Canterbury this morning. People can walk away but they remain connected because the church is Christ’s body and it is impossible to chop that up. To do so butchers Christ. To break a family butchers our sense of identity and who we are.
This is a salutary warning when families fall out, as they do at times. When abuse is involved we enter a different world of allusions. It can be important for the one abused to put distance between them and their abuser. The only safe way for the abused and abuser to come together again is if the abuser acknowledges what they have done and is on a path to live differently. That is rare.
There are many within the LGBTI community who feel that sections within the Anglican Church have been responsible for and perpetuate their abuse. Viewed from that angle the family allusion doesn’t bring together in the way intended. It brings a cry for justice and healing. Reconciliation will not come without a meeting of understanding. Agreeing to disagree well does not wash when the issue at stake is so crucial to self identity and self worth, when it involves an assault on the deepest person.
This is where attempts to bring the participants of the Primates Meeting together in Canterbury will need to involve some serious and honest meeting of minds. Without it no one moves and without that there is no hope of reconciliation.
But behind each of the Primates lie communities and contexts which are as varied as this planet can muster. Some exercise near autocratic power, others have synodical structures which make them more representatives than prelates.
So the family, while it presents an image of affinity and belonging, when one party experiences the other as abusing it is not the knock down argument it might seem.