For Christians like me, who are deeply attached to the Scriptures and the traditions of the Church, and who find their spiritual life in the liturgy and sacraments, this is a troubling distortion. Our commitment to inclusivity is not a compromise we have made between our faith and the situation we find ourselves in, it is a central part of what that faith can reveal to modern society. If the situation continues, I am concerned that many people will understandably see our inclusivity as proving that we are only sort of Christian, since “serious” Christians have to discriminate against LGBT people whether they like it or not.
To sum up, I am deeply concerned that our current situation is preventing thousands upon thousands of young people from hearing the Gospel. I have met some of them personally, and I am fairly sure that they represent large swathes of people in the same age group and situation. This issue is getting in the way of their interest in Christianity and their view of the faith. This is not a question of fitting our Christian witness to what people want to hear, but of taking seriously the message of reconciliation and repentance at the heart of the Gospel. The objections I come across from many young people to the Church of England are not selfish, self-indulgent or shallow, they are profoundly moral and based on a rather Biblical notion of justice.
Sending out signals is hugely important, I have learned. During my first years as a lecturer I did not have many students coming to me for pastoral advice, but that increased significantly as soon as I spoke publicly, in lectures or on my blog, on questions to do with gender justice and inclusivity. I quickly discovered that there were a number of people who needed to talk about these issues, and who were in distress about them. But I only found that out because I first made it clear that I cared about these issues, and made it clear that I was a safe person to discuss them with.