Day 14: No future without forgiveness
After several days involving wrong turnings and late arrivals, it was great to make it to central Watford by 6.30 this evening. I cannot take all the credit for this – or even most of it. I was joined for the day by my good friend Chris Campbell, who is a considerably better navigator than I am. Chris is now an elder at Maidenhead United Reformed Church. Fourteen years ago, he and I worked together at a residential Christian youth centre in Yardley Hastings in Northamptonshire. Chris was and is a gay Christian, and I can remember my prejudice and rudeness towards him because of his sexuality.
Tonight I am staying overnight in Watford with another former colleague, my friend Sally. She and I were on the staff of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) a few years ago. She and her partner are extremely hospitable, and Sally even remembered just how weak I like my tea.
Shortly before I walked to Sally’s flat, I sat with Chris in a pub in Watford recovering from today’s walk. Chris emphasised that he had forgiven me. But he was also keen to point out that forgiveness is not what was uppermost in his mind when he thought of my change of heart over sexuality. Rather, he feels that we had learnt about issues of faith and sexuality together through spiritual journeys that were often shared. Chris’ friendship has been a source of joy, strength and practical help to me for years and I thank God for him, as I thank God for the other friends with whom I have been blessed.
I was keen to involve Chris in my pilgrimage – and he was keen to be involved – partly because of the importance of seeking his forgiveness, but mainly because he has played a bigger role than anyone in my journey away from homophobia and towards repentance. It will be a privilege to be Chris’ best man when he marries his partner Carl in December.
Chris talks more of shared journeys than forgiveness. As a Christian, I believe that forgiveness is right even when it is unreciprocated. But it seems to me that mutual forgiveness and reconciliation often involve some sort of shared journey, with deepened understanding and respect. Forgiveness and reconciliation are urgently required in the many controversies affecting the Christian and LGBT communities in Britain, and much of the world, today.