Prayer for Christian Unity
On Friday 21st January, after Evensong, in York Minster, Bishop John Perumbalath was confirmed in his office as the new Bishop of Liverpool, by the Archbishop of York. It was an old fashioned ritual marking a significant new beginning for the diocese, and on a day charged with significance for the wider Church, as the bishops of the Church of England published a letter and prayers at the end of a six year process of consultation, conversation, and discernment, called ‘Living in Love and Faith’, principally about how the Church should respond to people in same sex relationships. Bishop John was warmly welcomed to his role, and reminded in the service that he becomes Chief Shepherd, under Christ, of the Church in this diocese. We pray for him as he prepares to move to Liverpool, and for all the preparations for his enthronement in April.
Just around the corner from York Minster is a medieval parish church used in the filming of the influential TV series ‘Gentleman Jack’, based on the life of early nineteenth century Yorkshire lady, Anne Lister. She was a devout Anglican, and lived with another woman. Her diaries form the basis for a dramatization by Sally Wainwright, scriptwriter of that other Yorkshire hit, ‘Happy Valley’. Anne and her partner, Miss Walker, pledged themselves to one another by going to receive Holy Communion together, and sharing rings. It was both a moment charged with significance personally, celebrated publicly, hidden in plain sight.
The bishops’ letter was a compromise, and will have caused as much disappointment as it has celebration. Its full implications are yet to be understood. As we pray for Bishop John, we pray for the gift of unity, which comes from God alone, who is merciful, and passes our understanding.
Canon Philip Anderson