I have a feeling I will really like Martyn Percy when I meet him in Oxford as much as many of the authors in the book edited by Ian Markham and Joshua Daniel called Reasonable Radical?: Reading the Writings of Martyn Percy. He appears to be quite a frontrunner when it comes to his views on difficult issues facing the church today, especially the Anglican Church. I also know I will like him because of his progressive views on women in ministry. The following quote definitely caught my attention and summed up his position on women well: “Percy is an advocate of socially progressive positions. He supported the ordination of women. A factor, as he recognizes in a footnote, is the influence of his wife, the Rev Dr. Emma Percy. However, he is completely persuaded that in the end the Gospel is about inclusion. Now, although Percy values unity, he does become impatient as the Church of England prevaricated over the ordination of women Bishops. He writes: In respect of the ordination of women, there has already been much waiting. The earliest campaigners for women’s ordination—those on the fringes of the suffragette movement, such as Maude Royden—could barely have imagined that it would have taken more than a century for women to receive equal treatment in the Church of England. Unity is a value, but now is the time for action. To have the resources of women excluded from the church is a sin. For Percy, things have to change.” Also, for Jake, things have to change. This country and the church have been in the dark ages far too long, it is time for us to start getting serious about advancing women to their rightful place.
After reading Percy’s discussion regarding the term “liberal”, and how it has become such a negative term among conservatives, I realized how liberal I am but have often tried to avoid being associated with that term. It has often felt like the position of the broader church at times but referred to in negative terms if it means changing the way things have always been done. Percy states that he has “seen both the Higher (Anglo-Catholic) and Lower (Evangelical) wings of Anglicanism entirely out-narrate the middle ground (i.e., Broad Church), and rebrand it as “liberal.” And, in turn, this has been followed swiftly by the term “liberal” being allotted a consistently negative value in ecclesial climes. For Catholic conservatives, and a handful of conservative Evangelicals, this began with Gender Wars (i.e., the debate on the ordination of women). The vast majority of clergy and laity who desired (and eventually voted for) women priests found themselves repositioned as “liberals.” On sexuality, a gradual acceptance of lesbian and gay Christians, and an eventual (still growing) acceptance of same-sex marriages has also led to the Broad Church and middle ground being labeled, once again, negatively, as “liberal.”” I have not only been labeled as a “liberal” for my strong views regarding women leaders, but also a “feminist”. For this I am becoming more and more proud! As I continue to be a champion for females, who make up 51% of the population, I guess it will put me smack dab in the middle of Broader America, but hopefully referred to less negatively as time goes on.
Another progressive and I guess “liberal” perspective of Percy is his views on the LGBTQ community. As I shared in a previous blog on this topic, God has gotten my attention on this topic through a surprising friendship with an amazing married lesbian couple in our church. They are two of the most loving people I have ever met, and their love for Jesus and commitment to the church and evangelism is inspiring. I can’t imagine God not smiling when he sees them serve in our church with such joy, and I also know many Christians would struggle with the level of involvement they have in our church. I have become grateful that our church has made this a non-issue and have embraced them in every way. Based on how Percy treats marginalized women, I was not surprised to read the following statement about his views on this topic: “Percy has also been equally committed to the full inclusion of lesbians and gays. Perhaps the best illustration of this was his controversial essay entitled “Sex, Sense and Non-Sense for Anglicans.” It was a contribution to the deliberations of the Primates of the Anglican Communion at their January meeting in 2016. Percy draws attention to the evil of homosexual conduct being regarded as illegal in forty-one of the fifty-three countries within the British Commonwealth. He cites the data from Daniel Munoz that shows that the Global South is exaggerating their membership for political reasons. And he then writes, “Conservatives are not oppressed or criminalized for their opposition to lesbian, gay and bisexual people—ever, anywhere.” Percy points out that the Biblical witness can easily be used to support slavery and patriarchy. And then he writes, “Lesbian, gay and bisexual Christians will not suffer discrimination in heaven. In the Kingdom of God, as faithful Christians, all enjoy a full and equal citizenship.” Of everything that Percy has written, this is the essay that received the most attention.” I’m not surprised this essay has received the most attention, and it most likely will be referenced for years to come as this issue is far from resolved in most churches. So much is packed in this quote, starting with the boldness of his title for his essay. Second, I appreciated how he made a point to highlight the fact that we can make a Biblical case for slavery and patriarchy, but many have decided to chalk this up to context and progress past these things. And thirdly, I love how he boldly states that the Christian LGBTQ community will not suffer discrimination and will have equal citizenship in heaven.
Based on what I have read about this amazing man, Martyn Percy, I am not surprised he has found himself in the middle of a scandal trying to get him removed from office. Hopefully this does not keep us from having the opportunity to meet him in person in Oxford.