Part 1. Remembrance Day.
Sunday, 9 November 2014.
Stood for three hours in the drizzle on the roof of the FCO. No incidents. Struck me that only a complete nutter would have a go at the royals on a day like today. Proud to serve Queen and country.
Meeting of Dr Declan Quinn (Archbishop of Canterbury) and Sue Andrews (Personal Assistant to the Archbishop of Canterbury).
10 November 2014, 9.04 AM.
‘Now that we have Remembrance Sunday out of the way, I’ll be wanting to concentrate on knocking my speech into shape for the opening ceremony of Synod. I’m still not convinced that the paragraph about the global financial crisis is right.’
‘Shall I print another draft for you, or do you have one?’
‘I thought I had one here somewhere but…’ The Archbishop lifted a couple of open ring binders from the surface of his desk to reveal assorted piles of paperwork lurking beneath, none of which appeared to contain his speech.
‘I’ll print one, Archbishop.’
‘Thank you. I don’t know where the little tinker’s gone.’ The Archbishop ran a hand over his closely-trimmed grey beard.
Sue Andrews made a note of the “to-do” item on her short-hand pad and smiled into her lap. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cantuar, the most senior bishop of her church, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, would be lost without her. Sue Andrews permitted herself a little thrill of delight at the thought.
‘What have we got in the diary today?’
‘You’re addressing the GLBT Christian Fellowship lunch. I ran off a copy of your speech for you.’
Sue Andrews removed two pieces of paper from a plastic wallet and handed them to her boss.
The Archbishop looked through the half-glasses on the end of his nose and read the first few lines. ‘I’ll take a look at this before I do the other one and let you have any final amendments. Now, at what time will they be wanting me?’
Even though she knew the answer, his assistant consulted the invitation again. ‘Drinks at twelve thirty.’
‘Better have the car here for twelve then. Who am I meeting?’
‘Their chairman, Hayley White, and she is a chairman, not a chairperson, or a chairwoman.’
‘I know. I’ve met her before. Have you met her? Lovely woman, amazing story, had a really tough time of it before she found her faith and her partner, absolutely turned her life around. I believe they were married last year.’ The Archbishop smiled benignly.
Sue Andrews disguised her disapproval of the Archbishop’s casual use of language by adjusting her spectacles. Sue Andrews knew that Hayley White had had a civil partnership ceremony last year. Sometimes the Archbishop was too inclusive for his own good.
‘Okay, now, I’d forgotten that was today. Anything else?’
‘You’re at St Martin in the Fields tonight for the homeless fundraiser. You’re reading Home and Love by Service.’
A small wrinkle appeared between the Archbishop’s brows. ‘Did I choose that?’
‘Actually, I did, Archbishop. They sent a list of suggestions and it seemed the most appropriate.’
Sometimes, thought the Archbishop, I’d like to be given an option, but he said, ‘Thank you,’ and took the copy of the poem that his assistant had printed for him.
‘Good. A quiet day, then. I’ll be getting the Synod speech finished this morning.’
Sue Andrews picked up her paperwork and moved to the door. ‘I’ll print it off for you now.’
‘Thank you,’ replied the Archbishop, picking up the draft of his lunchtime speech.
Speech by Dr Declan Quinn to the GLBT Christian Fellowship.
10 November 2014, 3.07 PM.
I should like to begin this afternoon by thanking your chairman, Hayley White, her committee and the members of the GLBT Christian Fellowship for their kind invitation to speak to you today. It is not the first time that I have had this pleasure and it is always a refreshing, challenging and thought-provoking experience for me. I hope I can return the favour!
Twenty years ago, almost to the day, a young man stumbled into my church in Derry. He could barely stand, his face and hands were swollen and bloody, he had lost his coat and one shoe, his trousers were torn and stained with mud. Another victim of sectarian violence, we thought. He spent the first forty-eight hours after his attack in the intensive care unit of Altnagelvin Hospital. When he was well enough to receive visitors, I went to see him. I asked him if he was Protestant. He said he was, and we talked about the possibility of ever achieving peace in the region. As we talked, it became obvious that his attackers had not been Catholic boys, as I’d assumed. In fact, he knew his attackers. They were Protestant lads from his own church. I asked why they had attacked him and he told me that they had beaten him because he was in a relationship with another man; something that they considered abhorrent. I then asked him why, after what had happened to him, he had sought sanctuary in a church, my church. He said that he knew he would be safe. His mother had taught him that if he was ever in trouble the church would help him.
When I told my wife that I had received your invitation, she said, ‘I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know how they carry on being part of the Anglican Communion when so many of our congregation are nothing short of vile to them. Why they don’t leave us, I don’t know. It’s a miracle, to be sure.’ I, for one, am grateful that your faith is strong and that, just like my young friend in Derry, you return to pray with us, even when you sometimes receive a meagre welcome.
I have no doubt that the majority of you have struggled to reconcile your faith and your sexuality at some time; two aspects of a person so deeply embedded that most of us don’t give them a second thought. I didn’t, but then I had nobody telling me that my sexuality was incompatible with my faith, or that my faith was incompatible with my sexuality. Nobody should have to choose between those two fundamentals.
I know that a number of people, just like you, are not here today. They are not here because they were torn apart by their inability to reconcile who they knew themselves to be with an interpretation of the Bible that, I believe, is highly selective. We pray that the peace that eluded them on earth, they have found in heaven.
Mercifully, the numbers of homosexual and transsexual Christians who take their own life is small but, if the church does not embrace the diversity of its congregation, that number will grow. One more is one too many. I want there to be no question in your minds that you are welcomed into our church. I believe that God loves every single one of us, that there is nobody excluded from His love and nobody for whom His light cannot shine.
Which reminds me of an old joke: ‘How many homophobes does it take to change a light bulb? None. They’re afraid of change even if it makes the world a brighter place.’ But, even if they won’t change the light bulb, you can.
The work that your organisation does to change Christian attitudes to homosexuality and transsexuality; to educate embarrassed, disgusted and frightened Christians about your lives; to demonstrate every day by your actions in the world that homosexuality-transsexuality and living in the Christian faith are not mutually exclusive, is of vital importance to maintaining the unity of our church and its congregation. I know you will agree with me when I say that there is no place for homophobia or transphobia within our mission.
I remember seeing a placard once that said, ‘Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one.’ Man’s unique capacity for thought raises us above the animals, but it can also make us sink much, much lower. The only way to ensure that our thoughts lift humanity to a higher place is to inform those thoughts by being open to other points of view, careful in our judgements and learned in our opinions.
As you go about your work to educate those who oppose your place in the church remember the words of Christ from St Matthew’s gospel: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ They are also your brothers and sisters, and they need your love more than those sitting beside you today. Reach out to them, get to know them and let them get to know you, for it is only through those shared experiences that barriers will be broken down.
I say to you today, be patient and keep trying, things are changing – and I’m not just referring to the light bulb!
Telephone conversation between Princess Alexandra of Wales and Lieutenant-Commander Grace Stephens.
10 November 2014, 3.55 PM (GMT). 8.25 PM (AFT).
‘I can’t talk for long. I’m on the night shift in twenty minutes. Where are you?’
‘I thought you were back in Plymouth today?’
‘Tomorrow. I can’t talk for long, either. I’ve been in meetings all morning for the Rainforest and Heroes. I’m due at Clarence House this evening.’
‘So, how did it go? Did you get a chance to talk to your grandmother?’
‘Yes, after the Cenotaph.’
‘Well, it’s not a “no”, but we can’t announce it until the PSO has had a look at the implications. It will also need to go to Privy Council in due course.’
‘Did you get a feel for what the implications might be?’
‘It’s all the stuff we thought it would be: how will the public react? How will the church react? How can you be Defender of the Faith when the faith you’re defending won’t acknowledge your marriage? Could any children we might have inherit the throne when they would, by necessity, be bastards? You know…’
‘Well, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. Did you get a chance to say how you think it could work?’
‘No. It was enough to ask the question. The Queen wasn’t surprised. She said she knew it was coming, but it’s going to be extra work for her household.’
‘Oh hell, I’m in Her Majesty’s bad books already.’
‘No, not really. It’s just… I don’t know… I think she has reservations.’
‘Why couldn’t you have done what every heir to the throne has done throughout history, proposed to some “nice-but-dim” for breeding purposes and kept me on the side?’
‘Because that wouldn’t have been fair on you, and because I love you, and because it’s time that my family and the public realized that we’re not messing about! This is for real!’
‘Steady, tiger! You know it’s a generational thing. This hasn’t been done before. The Queen’ll come round. You said she’s always had a soft spot for you.’
‘Well, then. Will you speak to your pa tonight?’
‘Yes, definitely. It’s the whole reason for going to dinner.’
‘Can he do anything?’
‘He will if my mother has anything to do with it!’
‘I know. Oh, I saw Bastion’s Remembrance Day service on the news. Didn’t spot you.’
‘I was on call. We had a Cat B. We got to do our two minutes with you at three-thirty. Look, I’ve got to go. Call me tomorrow?’
‘Yup. I’ll let you know what my father said.’
‘Just don’t be too militant, okay? You know what you can be like. I’m sure he’ll do everything he can to help us.’
‘He’s an ally, okay?’
‘Okay. Love you. Call you tomorrow.’
‘Love you. Bye.’
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