Last week, I wrote about the motions (now passed) at the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, about what is permissible on their Church property.
So I looked up the motions, and made a response from my own source of knowledge, and what theological wisdom I was able to bring to bear.
In the course of looking for the actual text of the motions, I came across an article that was headed something like ‘Seven reasons why Anglo Catholics are wrong to support same sex marriage.’ I skimmed the article, but could hear myself saying “Naaah! That’s not me, that’s not what I want to hear.’ So I put it down.
I noticed my response, because the week before, I had been in conversation with someone in the congregation who said words to the effect of “Well I have views on certain things that are part of life here, or which I would like to be part of life here, but I can’t tell you why. I just have them.’
Now in that case, I invited the person to be more articulate about what it was that motivated them. Now I find myself in exactly the same position! I am saying abut the Diocese of Sydney’s case “I know what I think, and I do not want to take really seriously what you have to say in your article, Diocese of Sydney.’ So what I should do, is to go back and look at the article, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest it so I can really know what they are saying. Then I might be better informed as to where my own thinking should go as I make reply.
Interestingly enough, this behaviour in which I have caught myself out, and the remedy which I am suggesting brings me closer to being a proper Christian disciple than any views, one way or another, that I might have.
This is because the Church is not a group of ‘like minded individuals’ who happen to congregate with other like minded individuals.
The Church is the Body of Christ. As Christ’s representatives, we are concerned, as he was, not so much with people who are ‘like us’ but people who are not like us.
This is my criticism of some of the Church Growth material, which stratifies congregations into homogenous groups.
So I take to heart my own criticism.
But the desire to reject what is foreign, or unconscious is a pretty natural one. To admit something ‘new’ into my consciousness, and to do the work involved in integrating it, and working with it takes courage, and brain- power, and humility. All good Christian qualities, to be sure, but not ones that I easily exhibit.
This is why it is hard for a rich (or powerful) person to enter the Kingdom of God, Because it is too easy to use one’s riches or power or connections to isolate ones self from the disturbance associated with owning my discomfort, interrogating my own internal state and integrating something new. This is in fact what the Diocese of Sydney is not doing by passing ever more restrictive, doctrinally based laws.
Interestingly enough, I heard something similar on Radio National’s ‘Future Tense’ programme National (24-10-18)
There they were talking about the renewed interest in the ‘long read’ in an age of Twitter and the assumed ever shortening attention spans.
There, they said that people still liked novels to read, and that research had found that those people who liked novels, showed more compassionate natures. This was, they argued, that a novel makes us spend time inside the personalities of people who are not the same as us. Doing this increases compassion!
It is interesting to hear this coming from the secular media, because this very process of widening our circles of love is exactly what the Church did, when it struggled to answer the question ‘Can Gentiles become followers of Jesus without being circumcised (and becoming Jews) first.
They came to the conclusion that, after experiencing the Spirit in the Gentiles, regardless of circumcision or not, that ‘Yes! Gentiles are also proper Christians’
Our practice is the same. We who are so different and not like each other, share the meal around Christ’s table, just as the early Christians did with their Gentile friends. There we learn to become conscious of God’s actions, not because we are comforted so much as because we are irritated, and forced into consciousness and thereby love, because of coming into contact and spending time with those who cause us problems.
It is this ability to move, to be repentant, to be converted which Characterises Christian faith. Being converted to Christianity is not about just shifting from one fixed world view to another, but it means being converted from one fixed world view, to the process of being converted, day by day. This is what St. Paul means when he encourages us to ‘not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds’ (Rom. 12:2). Or more succinctly put ‘It’s not where you stand that counts, but how you move!’