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Tonight I was down in town after work for the fourth of the Faith Debates series on the future of the Church of England. The subject was diversity and it was probably the most engaged one so far. Given the lampooning the Church of England has had in recent years for its ability to discuss differences, not entirely underserved, tonight’s discussion was a positive sign in itself.

I enjoyed a chance to hear Bishop Alan Wilson speak. I’ve followed his blog for a while now. Some times his writing sounds like a contraversialist but, listening to and watching him, I think that is out of compassion and desire for practical honesty rather than just stirring the pot for the sake of it. I also thought David Potter, Director for Reconciliation at Lambeth Palace although a self-confessed anabaptist rather than an Anglican, brought a lot to the table. It was he who shared an inside view of how a turning point in the debate about women bishops came when those present were asked to consider how their involvement in the debate was impacting their faith; the universal agreement that it was left feeling beaten and tarnished created a space in which a way forward was found. He also offered a pithy exhortatation to find ways to “articulate difference without toxicity”.

The final session is in a fortnight, on vision and particularly what the church has to offer the next generation and I’m looking forward to the evening although I suspect a key question is not just what can be offered but whether the next generation want it!

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