Back in July 2014, legislation was passed that enabled women to be consecrated to the episcopate in the Church of England. Whilst being fully committed to all orders of ministry, being open equally to all, the Church of England also remains committed to ensuring that those who cannot receive the ministry of women priests or bishops are able to flourish.
This delicate balance of unity, is supported by a document referred to as The Five Guiding Principles: Guidance for Candidates for Ordination in the Church of England. Holding to these principles is not easy, but it means that they are outworked, ‘one with the other and held in tension’.
A key term used within the document is ‘mutual flourishing’. This term implies far more than just the practical act of love, tolerance or polite unity. It takes our unity further, placing it at a level that seeks to actively support the ministry of those with whom we can’t agree.
The word ‘mutual’ takes us into the realm of reciprocation. It moves us on towards relationships that connect, respect and support. Relationships that are intertwined. Adding the word ‘flourish’ grows our unity even further, taking us to the point of a deliberate desire to see one another blessed.
Here’s the challenge: unity amongst those with whom we agree is relatively comfortable although the competitive spirit within us often impedes our desire to see others grow. Imagine then, unity with those who do things very differently, unity with those who we find it difficult to relate to.
How powerful would the unity be amongst this group if we adopted a principle of ‘mutual flourishing’?
Photo credit: Seth Doyle