I once tried to convince a sports fan that cricket was the one truly Christian sport. Cricket has laws (rather than rules) but those laws give expression to something that can’t be reduced to mere keeping of the law. The phrase ‘not cricket’ is used when the law has been observed but righteousness has not been manifested (the opposite of Romans 3.21), as in the famous case of underarm bowling being used by Australia against New Zealand in 1981 (‘Most disgraceful moment in the history of cricket‘). And grace, of course, remains one of the best known elements of the game.

Stephen Kuhrt‘s recent post on Fulcrum, ‘Cricket reaches the parts that theology never can‘, therefore comes as no surprise when it points out that the Diocese of Southwark’s cricket team contains members of Inclusive Church, Reform, Forward in Faith, and Affirming Catholicism, as well as Kuhrt himself representing the middle ground (or short mid-wicket) in the world of Anglican Evangelicals. They won this year’s Church Times cricket cup, and were also the first cup-winning team to contain a woman. ‘Some of us quipped that the team members from Reform and Forward in Faith might seek “alternative captaincy oversight”, while at some points, members of Inclusive Church were accused of failing “to play straight”, or tampering with the ball, in an effort “to swing it both ways”.’

Kuhrt’s conclusion is “The diocese that plays together stays together.” I pray that turns out to be true in the case of Southwark, but it was not true in the case of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In the early 2000s a rudimentary cricket match was a feature of the annual diocesan clergy conference, but an unfortunate episcopal reign stopped play in 2008 nevertheless. Perhaps, though, cricket might be used to restore broken relationships, if not complete unity. Is there an eleven—lay and ordained, male and female, evangelical, catholic and liberal—out there willing to brush up on or learn those rudiments, so that we might invite our estranged brothers and sisters back to the pitch?

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