Last night I attended a public forum on the new document by the World Council of Churches on The Church: Towards a Common Vision, presented by the Christian Unity Working Group of the Uniting Church and led by Ross Fishburn (a former teacher of mine) and Michael Lockwood. I thought it had been at least a year since I had been to any ecumenical or theological event, and I was reminded later that it had indeed been a year – I was last seen by some CUWG members at their public forum last year.
This event took me back to my time as a hotshot young ecumenist, when I was working toward graduate study in ecumenical theology and sitting on numerous church committees. I forced myself to take a break (a sabbatical, perhaps?) a couple of years ago, primarily due to burnout, but also because I had to accept that my concern for the place of LGBTI people in the church was not merely academic. My reading and my experiences at some major ecumenical forums in 2010 were leading me toward ideas for research on how wider social acceptance of LGBTI people posed challenges for unity among and within different Christian communities and denominations. But before I could start to formulate a theological response to this issue, I had to reach reconciliation within myself as a same-sex-attracted person and a public representative of the Anglican church. I have become more at ease with the former but that has made the latter more difficult for me.
Two years away from academia and from church committees have broadened my experience and given me confidence in myself, some grounding, and some sense of identity. I am about to return to university to study journalism because I want my research to have a wider audience and more direct and immediate impact. I haven’t lost my theological interests though. This isn’t the right time for me or for my corner of the church to initiate serious discussion of sexuality and ecumenical theology, but perhaps in four years, at least I will be ready to start this discussion.