It is perhaps a sign of my naivete, or of my lack of self-confidence, but it has come as a genuine surprise that so many of you are reading this blog; your comments, encouragement and insight have all come as an uncovenanted blessing; if I were to say how much I appreciate it, it would sound gushing – so I just want to say thank you.

Struans’ comments on my last post have been provoking many thoughts, and the article to which he linked seems to sum up the position he so skilfully articulates. ‘We are the church that refuses to exclude’. the Very Rev. Ian Markham tells us. My first reaction was to cheer; but my second reaction was to wonder whether the Church of the Apostles refused to exclude?

I wanted to cheer because God is love, and God’s love for us is so great that Christ died for us all to relieve us of the consequences of sin. Christ was what we would now call ‘inclusive’ – something the Pharisees found objectionable. But the Apostolic Church called those who brought ‘another Gospel’ anti-Christs, and St. Paul, like SS. Jude and Peter, called for such people to be excluded from their ranks. In their eyes then, these people were the equivalent of those whom Dr. Markham would also exclude, such as Muslims; except that those St. John wrote about also confessed Christ.

So, we don’t, except perhaps the most liberal, ‘refuse to exclude’, any more than the Apostolic Church did so. So what principles do we act upon? Traditionally it has been tradition and Scripture, with the Magisterium in Catholicism confirming what is and is not an orthodox reading of both. Of the various issues dividing the Anglican communion today, all of them have at their heart attempts to be more inclusive; conservatives may say they are motivated by the spirit of the age rather than the Holy Spirit, but we should all beware of thinking we speak for the latter.

The Anglicans and the Orthodox recognise remarriage, and in its almost Byzantine system of annulments, the Catholic Church is able to recognise when a real marriage did not take place; all of this tempers the wind to the shorn lamb; all of it allows for repentance to take place and for there to be a second chance. Surely there is all of Christ in such a development? Fornicators too can repent and marry. That leaves homosexuals.

On that issue learned arguments about the meaning of the Greek go back and forth, but miss the point surely? There was nothing in the ancient world of Rome which found homosexuality wrong, the early Christian opposition to it was not cultural (except in the Jewish community) but Scriptural (as it was in the Jewish community). Not until the twentieth century did men think to question the unquestioned tradition of the Church. The Church has always known what St. Paul meant – and why. Here too, though, repentance is possible.

We are all called to repent our sins and turn to follow Christ’s Gospel. Sinners exclude themselves.