On silence…

This is a terribly ironic post to put on a blog that updates daily….

Some of you may be aware that Steve Chalke, Baptist minister, Songs of Praise etc put up a post/statement last week about why he felt that same sex partnerships and equal marriage could be Biblically justified. The statement is here http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/sexuality/stevechalke.aspx and it is worth reading. It is also worth clicking on the fuller statement.

Within a day, the Evangelical Alliance put up 3 statements critiquing this. See http://www.eauk.org/church/stories/the-bible-and-homosexuality.cfm  http://www.eauk.org/church/stories/not-radical-enough.cfm & http://www.eauk.org/church/stories/homosexuality-and-hermeneutics.cfm

Understanding of marriage/sexuality is an important issue: Christian faith is holistic- ‘body’ and ‘mind’ are never seperated. But….. but….

….if someone makes a statement like this, I am thinking that there is a place for silence. A place for thought, reading, contemplation and prayer whilst you really listen to what the other person is saying. I wonder if at least 2 weeks or longer should pass in cyberspace before you even begin to issue a response. And when you issue a response, season it with Grace and do not include phrases like:-

 ‘Steve’s approach to biblical interpretation allows for a god in the likeness of 21st century Western-European mindsets’.

Within theology, that is like playing the man and not the ball; all of us are culturally conditioned- some of us are blind to that.

I remember the furore a year or so back about the American writer Rob Bell. He had published a book called ‘Love Wins’- go google. It seemed to challenge much traditional evangelical thinking. People began to send angry tweets to ‘Rob Bell’- except the Rob Bell they sent them to was an English electrician by the same name. At the time, he was suprised and hurt by the anger & I am sure he said something like he was not a Christian and after receiving the tweets did not want to be if this was how they treated each other.

And you will know they are Christians by their haste and bile…..

(There is a really good post on this by one of my friends http://www.dyfedwynroberts.org.uk/index/steve-chalke-and-evangelical-fear)

Just a picture

It is Bank Holiday: you should not be reading blogs, you should be doing Bank holiday stuff.

This is a picture from a church in America. This is the background:-

‘The Missiongathering Christian Church of California has bought billboard space along the Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The billboard is an apology on behalf of Christians to the gay community for all of the hate and un-Christian behavior towards homosexuals in the name of God’.

Wherever you stand on your view of sexuality, tread carefully. A quest for ‘the truth’ can quickly become a loud braying arrogance to those who don’t share your point of view (on both ‘sides’ and even in the ‘middle’).

 If the love of Christ overflows in us, I believe that this gives us much more security than most to say ‘I am sorry, I made a mistake’ and let God do any judging and final reckoning.

Mission

The Government here are entering into a period of consultation on marriage. The Prime Minister is understood to support a widening of marriage to cover same sex couples. I am not sure what I think of this; but I am supportive of civil partnerships. It seems to me that whether you view homosexuality as ‘wrong’ or not, to leave long term partnerships in a situation where they cannot enjoy legal protection is somewhat oppressive.

I also think they should be permitted on church premises; I think this should be left up to the same conscience clause as marriage of divorcees (some opt out of this; I have conducted the marriage of divorcees that others have refused to do). But marriage? I guess I will just listen for a while.

What I am sure of is the strident tone that some Christian organisations have adopted to’fight’ against this proposal. I am growing weary of Christian organisations whose sole public pronouncements seem to be on a narrow range of personal morality issues. I am also cautious of the imagined presumption that we are a ‘Christian nation’. Although Judaeo Christian values have permeated our laws largely to the good (think welfare state for example), we have never been a ‘Christian nation’ and I think the term is an oxymoron. To use state compulsion in the name of Jesus seems, well ‘wrong’ and a hinderance to a way of life that was always intended to pursued on the fringe of Empire but not as Empire.

As I was clearing my in box, I came on this, from an American perspective and from an Australian voice that speaks to me http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2012/january-online-only/secularculture.html :-

What advice do you have for church leaders in America about how to engage the broader culture effectively?

I think the very first thing is to do is adopt a stance of mission instead of admonition toward the world. Here’s an example. In the Australian context, there are church leaders who remember the glory days when about 20 percent of the nation went to church. They look at how Australia is secularized today, and their stance toward the world is basically admonition, the way you would talk to a backsliding Christian. How dare you slide away? How dare you legislate against Christian morality? I call that the admonition paradigm.

What’s wrong with this approach?

I reckon that’s how you kill your mission, because if you speak with a sense of entitlement, you won’t be flexible, you won’t be humble, and you won’t take hits and just bear it. You’ll want to strike back. And people will think you’re arrogant. Quite rightly, probably.

What do you recommend instead?

When you move out of admonition into mission, you realize Australia is no longer Jerusalem; it’s Athens. Then you instantly adopt a humbler approach to non-Christians. You don’t expect them to live Christian lives if they don’t confess Christ. You don’t expect Parliament to pass Christian-specific laws. But as a leader, you try to persuade the nation with winsomeness, with gentleness and respect, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15.

What does this mean for Christians who want to influence legislation?

Don’t say, “This is our right” or “You ought to live this way.” We can say we think God’s way is best for all of us and invite others to follow God’s path. But then we just live as an alternative community that embodies the things we claim to be true. And don’t worry about the loss of power.

I’ve often said to my Christian friends here in America, please do not confuse loss of legislative power with loss of gospel opportunity. The early church, of course, had no legislative power and they did amazing things. In China today, they have no legislative power, and a third of all Bibles are sold in China. This is not to say don’t go into politics, don’t speak up. But do it in mission mode, not admonition.

So how do you know you’re making progress?

Sometimes what looks like a win is actually a loss. I’ll give you a very recent example in Australia.

We have had Scripture teaching in State schools, because all education in Australia was conducted by churches until about a hundred years ago. When the government took over schooling, the churches said, “You can take over schooling, as long as you just leave us an hour a week to teach religious studies.” So for the last hundred years we’ve had little old ladies volunteering from the local churches to teach Scripture for one hour a week in schools. This is how I got converted, having never been inside a church.

There’s now a move to get rid of Scripture or, at least, to introduce an ethics class for kids whose parents don’t want them to go to the Scripture-teaching classes. Now a Christian politician in Australia has said to the government he will not support key industrial relations policies unless they overturn the people being allowed to teach ethics in the classroom. And the government cowed to him because he had the casting vote in the House.

How has the public responded to this situation?

The media around this is shocking. This politician thinks it’s a win for Christianity. The reality is, it is a huge loss for Christianity, because people think Christians reckon they have a right over everyone else. They reckon they can keep even non-Christian kids from a normal ethics. This politician has actually, in my view, hastened the secularizing process by what he thinks is a win. A real win, I think, would have been if this politician had made a case for Scripture in schools and refused to use his vote to bully the nation into doing it. If he had been able to make that case, I think it would have been a win for the gospel.

I think this bloke has nailed it….

 

 

You know; I am just not sure

I got this from a Christian organisation a week or two back. It was about the Scottish Assembly consultation on civil partnerships. It was uging me to respond and provided me with the following information:-

  • Civil partnerships were introduced with the promise that they would remain non-religious. It is not appropriate to now extend them onto religious premises with religious ceremonies. Doing so blurs the distinction between marriage and civil partnerships.
  • Introducing religious civil partnerships and/or homosexual marriage has huge implications for freedom of belief. Individuals and churches are likely to be sued under equality legislation if they do not wish to participate, regardless of any conscience safeguards, which have never worked in the past. Many Christians have already lost their jobs because of the promotion of homosexual rights.
  • Introducing homosexual marriage would undermine the concept of marriage, which is meant to be between a man and a woman for the procreation of children. A homosexual relationship cannot create the same family unit for the benefit of society.
  • Homosexual marriage damages children. Children brought into homosexual marriages will be denied either a father or a mother, yet all of the evidence suggests that children are best raised with both a mother and a father.

I can’t use language like that anymore. Not that I don’t think sexuality is important: it is. Once you get to the other extreme and say ‘what two people do in private is private’ you have stopped believing in the idea of Jesus as Lord and started to live a seperated life.

I think what this organisation is asking me to do hints at the rising tide of paranoia amongst certain sections of the Christian community; ‘We are being persecuted’. I also think it betrays a desire to retain hold of ‘Christendom’. If I was gay and reading that I would be rightly offended at the bald condemnation over who I was (let alone what I would feel if I was the child of a gay couple).

I am always teaching my children to be clear on who they are but to honour and listen to anyone who they disagree with: what that organisation seems to be doing is smearing and distorting those who they oppose. I feel almost weary pasting it here: I have grown tired of a Christianity that distorts and labels those it is scared to engage with.

The early Christian communities functioned in intensely pluralistic societies. They maintained their distinctiveness within that- without trying to legislate morality on behalf of the whole of society. Whether I feel that homosexuality is compatible with committed following of Jesus or not, the arguments for recognising civil partnership seem plain enough. The arguments for allowing a blessing/conducting of those ceremonies on church premises also seem plain enough. If a church/minister wants to opt out of that as those who have a conscience against the remarriage of divorce do, fine.

I am no longer happy with a type of Christianity that does not seem to listen, distorts it’s opponents points of view to score points and fosters a ‘we are being attacked’ mentality.

(And the sad thing is that I fear that some Christians will read things into this that I am not actually saying. It is ok- I have ‘backslidden’- feel free to demonise and slander; you have God on your side and I don’t.Tragic…)

That gay issue…

I have almost nothing in common with American megachurch pastors (although- if you read my post of yesterday, this one has resigned and does not currently fulfil that role) but I liked this post:-

http://www.shauninthecity.com/2011/03/midtown-atlanta-gay-men-the-closet-churches-jesus.html

I do not like the phrase ‘the gay issue’: there are human beings and we are not ‘issues’. My denomination has committed to a pilgrimage of understanding on sexuality : this means we listen, we learn, we dialogue….we may not eventually agree but perhaps we understand more.

I am so pissed off (I did think about writing ‘hacked off’- but that would have been an understatement) with evangelical grandstanding on this area- grandstanding is easy to do; you never have to listen, you get more enjoyment out of shouting (heck, you can even write off any hurt you cause as being down to the other being in sin). I think I am annoyed because I would descibe myself still if I was forced to (I loathe labels) as being in the evangelical camp….albeit pulling out tent pegs and skulking around the exit.

I think this guy is listening and being open:- some choice quotes, but read the whole article:-

‘The gay folk I am meeting are not a support group or a good book away from becoming straight.  They are as gay as I am straight.  Asking me to not be a heterosexual would be like asking me to not be a human.  It is a core part of who I am.  I don’t know how to not be straight.  I’ve always been this way’.

and

‘Sexuality is complicated in general. Marriage, dating, celibacy, rape, abuse,and all issues of sexuality are far more nuanced and difficult to understand than pastors and churches ever acknowledge.  The result is most often over-simplistic, uninformed answers to amazingly complex issues’.  

also….

‘In my opinion, the American Church today most looks down on three groups of people and I think it makes me (and you) more like Jesus when we befriend them. What we do with that friendship is up to us.  Jesus always left people better than when he first encountered them.  Those three groups are

1. Homosexuals

2. Illegal Immigrants/Undocumented Workers

3. Muslims’

Go read: it is one of the most open and thoughtful posts I have read from a conservative evangelical perspective.