Rector Marcus Green had his new book The Possibility of Differencepublished by Kevin Mayhew Ltd last week. Here, he reflects on two launch events held to celebrate the book's publication.
For me, as I look back, just a few days on, at the two launch events for my new book last weekend, the most remarkable thing is - how much I can’t remember!
OK - so here are some headlines. Some facts. There were over seventy people at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford on Friday, and around half that number in Steeple Aston the day after. The first event was the big public launch, the second a chance for folk in our parishes to celebrate and enjoy the occasion.
At Christ Church, we had bishops. Three of them. At Steeple Aston we had cake. Enough to feed a small army. You can decide which event you would rather have attended from that. Both featured people buying buying books, and me signing them - as you’d expect - checking every now and then ‘So that’s to Theodora spelled the usual way?’
Clare Hayns, Chaplain at Christ Church, hosted on Friday. Clare had organised the whole event brilliantly - so much so that I hadn’t had to do anything really. Thanks to Clare, the Cathedral had done much of the publicity around it. Dave Gatward & I gave a bit of background on the book, before we chatted about issues raised in it. How had I come to write it…and then…my mind goes blank.
We’re into that section I can’t remember. And I promise I didn’t even finish the one glass of wine that was offered to me!
I do recall a sea of faces. And the Bishop of Oxford likening me to Michael McIntyre (in a good way, I think). I do remember thinking, as people asked questions, ‘There are lots of answers here, and different folk see this very differently, but I think I’ll just try to say it as I see it.’
I suppose that’s the book really. I’m trying to explain how I see the Bible as a story of radically inclusive love, how St Paul is the gay person’s greatest friend as he argues for one new humanity with no-one left out, how God is revealed constantly on every page to be there for each of us, and that the way texts have been used to exclude is fundamentally bad biblical theology. And yet church isn’t simply about me and people like me - it’s about all of us. So I will gladly, loudly, determinedly proclaim a Bible theology of welcome to gay people in God’s kingdom and also hold out a hand of fellowship to those who have traditionally excluded us. God’s radically inclusive love is, after all, not just for people who agree with me…
At Steeple Aston, hosted by the wonderful folk at Hill House, the extent of that love was pushed even further. Half of the gathering was made up of folk who don’t really go to church at all. Playing the part of Dave Gatward was the wonderful Margaret Bulleyment, very much a member of our village but not so much of the village church, and she caught the mood of the afternoon when she said that for her the book passed what she called her ‘Larkin test’: Did she believe it? Did she care? Did she go on caring afterwards? Yes, to all three, was her answer.
And it was something of a privilege to receive questions which basically centred around our community’s concern that we are a good and welcoming and safe place for gay people to live and flourish, in church and in general.
I was also asked at both events - and this does stay with me through the fog of excitement and unremembering - who I intend as the audience for this book. Well, anyone who wants or needs a Biblically affirming theology for inclusivity. But more than that, I wrote The Possibility of Difference aiming sort of at my 20-year old self, thinking how he might have flourished more with someone telling him that God knew he was gay, that he loved him, that it was OK, and showing him all this from the Bible. If just one or two folk in that kind of place get this book, and find that truth…