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Not So Social Media

Joanna Mikac   |   July 27, 2020

Simon

Daniel

Daniel, of Jewish royalty, was exiled to and raised in Babylon, and chosen to be schooled in its language and literature.  In other words, Daniel was steeped in Babylonian culture: he was adept at their cultural, moral, and philosophical structures, which, at points were anathema to his monotheistic heritage.

Early on in his education, he forced a point of difference, and in so doing proved the wisdom, the observable difference of his separation, when he refused the rich fare from the king’s table.  He was applauded for this.

Later he came into life-threatening conflict with the powers when refusing to obey the King’s edict concerning to whom one could pray.  His disobedience was almost the occasion of his demise.  He was thrown to the lions for this.

Admired and despised, loved, and hated.

And yet, remarkably, he out-lasted the suzerainty of four Kings.

Daniel is a remarkable example of being culturally aufait and counter-cultural.

He understood and utilized the culture, but he was not captive to it. 

Where needed he faced into the raging wind of Babylonian power, and where required he worked within it.

 

Us

Social media is a tsunami of facts, opinions, misinformation, vitriol, and accusation without defense.  It assumes to be judge, jury, and executioner.  Its damage ranges from being a nuisance to a cause of suicide.  Any appeal to impartiality is a lost cause, as Facebook is currently discovering with massive losses of advertising revenue over its seeming inability to cull hate-speech invective.

On the other hand, social media can be social – it can be used to inform, entertain, and delight.  It depends on who wields the s/word or the pict/ure.  And as with any tool, it quickly loses its neutrality in the hands of the aggrieved, the thoughtless, and the malcontent.

But for many, it is a way to keep in touch, to foster connections.  Fun and beauty can be mediated by social media, along with thoughtfulness, kindness, and truth.

This is all obvious though – nothing new here.

 

Daniel

Of greater concern is not its use, but that it may be using us.  We need the dexterity of Daniel in being able to weave our way between employing and being employed by, between mastering and being mastered by.

The easy option is to simply condemn it – avoid at all costs.  But this is problematic, as it is a tool that, wielded correctly, has positive benefits – even in our Babylon.  Daniel didn’t fail to employ his knowledge of the “language and literature” of Babylon with acuity.  Much of his task was a human/creational endeavor as much as a Babylonian/fallen perspective.  Administration of a kingdom is still administration; of itself, the administration is a noble task.

But where Babylon defied Jerusalem, Daniel was no longer carried along with the tide.  At a great personal cost, he swam upstream.  He would not become the mindless pawn of the powers that demand fawning obsequiousness.  His failure to bow was their opportunity to crucify him, but his resolution shut the mouths of lions.

 

Us

Vortexes of opinion agitate and swirl around social media.  We must take care we don’t become a repeating station of ill-informed and spiteful words.

Jesus can be proclaimed on social media, but Jesus can as easily be defamed on social media.  How?  By God’s people reacting, retweeting, entering slanging matches, picking up on point-proving diatribe, all of which does little to advance the kingdom of God and the cause of Christ’s love.  Not for no reason did Jesus teach in the Lord’s prayer – “Hallowed be your name,” or make your name holy in your people, juxtaposed to God’s people bringing into ill repute to his holy name.

 

Daniel got it right.

 

Simon Circle

Longevity In Christian Life & Ministry

Joanna Mikac   |   June 30, 2020

Simon Christian Life Ministry

Normally when we think of going the distance, we cite the usual suspects: prayer, scripture, the moral life, and others.  And they are correct to cite, but not correct enough, because they all depend on self-discipline.

Self-discipline is good in itself, but focusing on these “usual suspects” individualises the faith, and diminishes the value of the community of God’s church. It’s in community where we gain longevity, because it’s in community that Christ is more fully realised, known and expressed than in private.  Together we are not only better, but we are God’s people, and his church.

 

The Usual Suspects

  • Prayer

Prayer is axiomatic (taken for granted) to sustain vitality and viability in relationship with God. Prayer needs to be regular and employing the various tools of prayer:  private, public, using Psalms, NT prayers of Ephesians and Colossians, the Lord’s Prayer (where “I” and “me” are not mentioned once), speaking in known and unknown tongues, etc.

Jesus invited private prayer, but not to the exclusion of public/gathered prayer. 

He was teaching us to see reward in relationship, and not in public accolade for long winded fancy prayers.  The early church practised both – but we read more of gathered prayer rather than private prayer, although we can take private prayer for granted. You won’t go the distance without prayer.  And it is one of the first things to suffer when ‘moral/ethical dissonance’ creep in.

  • Scripture

A love for God’s word is vital.  A private devotion to and immersion in God’s word is a lifeline; food for our true hunger.  No other book compares.

A consistent practise of reading, studying and meditating on God’s word is the only thing that actually challenges and changes the church (as it is preached). 

Food not sermon material.  We aren’t meant to be merely good orators, communicators, relevant and appealing.  Hitler was all those things, so are most dictators and heretics.  What we preach/minister matters more than the delivery platform.  Only reading/listening to what others have discovered is to rob ourselves.

The church was formulated by the apostle’s teaching – it was something they did together – not apart. “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  

More was discovered and regulated by doing the process together.  We always, and thereby erroneously, read this as the solo practise of prayer and scripture.  It wasn’t.

  • Moral Life

This is vital as well for longevity.  Some have forgotten this and incurred much pain and loss.  Much of Paul’s instruction whilst starting in theology ends in application for lifestyle.  Love will always show itself in moral and ethical apparel.  Grace is a deterrent from sin, not a way around it, nor a minimisation of it.  Your morality matters, your ethics matter.

These are private matters, but they have public impact. 

And time isn’t enough to mention more of the usual suspects: generosity, witness, etc… These all matter, as personal commitments, but they don’t and can’t matter enough.

 

What we have individualised:

  • Baptism

Baptism is not a private matter. Baptism is not just baptism into Christ’s death, as personal benefit (although it certainly includes this).  It is also and equally baptism into Christ’s church – the new saving community (which is why it is so serious for people like Hindus and Muslims coming to faith is Jesus, as baptism disavows their community).

  • The Lords Supper

This is not meant to merely be a personal reflection of Christ’s death and its application to your present circumstance in the private domain of your heart. It is firstly a community celebration (an actual meal), that has saving significance and proclaims the Lords death until he comes again.

 

An inconvenient truth

Longevity in the faith and ministry has as much to do with who are your people, your community, as it does with a private devotion. 

My salvation has as much to do with God’s church as it does with my individual commitment.  I’m simply not that good, but God’s church is.  My salvation depends as much on my community as it does on my personal commitment.

We grow as we connect, as we stay connected.  We wither as we disconnect. 

Side note, here’s how you disconnect: you get offended and fail to forgive.  Going to another church won’t change a thing – it will only delay the inevitable.  Repentance, forgiveness, love – the Jesus stuff.  I don’t stay in God’s church, in community, because I like everyone or what everyone does or says – I stay in because I won’t make it otherwise (and I’m hardly dumb, uncommitted or undisciplined).

 

The church is the “saving community.”  You aren’t a saving community.  It is both pride and bad theology to suggest we all stand alone.  Our Reformation reaction has cost us.

Church is a community that meets – not meetings that add community as an after-thought.

 

Salvation takes on many aspects in God’s church.  As an example, the apostle John states, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  Light, community, cleansing.  Together, not alone.

This is the reason I’m still in Christ, in his church, in community – because it isn’t up to me.  I worry about those who disconnect and say absurd, unbiblical things, such as, “I have a personal, private walk with Jesus.”  You may do, but it isn’t the Jesus of scripture, tradition or history they appeal to.   All the very best with that.

 

Longevity is found in community.

 

Simon Circle

Prayer (Isn’t) In Lockdown

Joanna Mikac   |   May 18, 2020

Simon Prayer In Lockdow

 

One thing is for certain: God’s people are praying more – more often, more intensely, more urgently, with more faith and less self-interest than usual – none of which will harm us. 

As to why this pandemic has spread with such virulence, I have no idea.  Whether it is the outcome of cross species contamination or a lab leak, I speak with no authority.  Beyond this, we speculate.

Apportioning blame is something for Governments, not God’s church.  We are the antidote, not the accusation.

 

What can we pray?

 

Matt 6:9-13

There is no better place to start than the Lord’s prayer, which currently makes more sense prayed in community than in the closet.  It is a prayer that glorifies our Father, a prayer that invites the uniting of “things in heaven and things on earth,” and a prayer that situates us with our daily needs being met, forgiveness being extended to us and from us, testing with limitations, and deliverance from evil.

This prayer has an ‘eschatological horizon’ realised in the resurrection of Jesus and the inauguration of God’s kingdom – as in heaven, so on earth.  We are invited into much more than just anticipating a nice time here, as up there.  Kingdom will here, on earth, in your city, your community, your family, as it is in heaven!  We are praying with prophetic boldness the realisation of the will of the one who is far above all power and authority, be it human, angelic or demonic.

 

1 Timothy 2:1-4

We might also pray what Paul writes to his understudy, Timothy, urging him in the right direction to use all manner of prayer for all people, “for kings and all who are in high positions,” with the purpose that we, God’s people, may live in peace with quiet dignity, resulting in people coming to salvation in Christ.  Whatever we pray for our governments, with whatever political preferences we adhere to, the point of this prayer is not that our Prime Ministers, or Presidents, become Christians, but that we, the church, can lead a quiet and dignified life so that the Lordship of Christ might be experienced in salvation.

Nothing wrong with praying for the saving power of Christ to be extended to our Government leaders, but this prayer isn’t about that – it is about a different sort of governing; it is about a governing, a lordship, that isn’t compromised by “the principalities and powers” of this “present evil age.”  It is about peace for the sake of the church, his body.

This isn’t how this prayer is normally comprehended, but it is what it was written for, if a plain reading is allowed.

 

Praying these prayers in lockdown is a good place to start.  Who knows where it might lead as the Holy Spirit prays through us, with prayers beyond our finitude, in intercessional groanings?

 

On Earth as it is in Heaven.

 

Simon Circle

Lessons In Lockdown?

Joanna Mikac   |   April 27, 2020

Simon Lessons

 

Are there lessons that lockdown could teach us, because every new situation has the potential to speak to us.  But it may be premature to speak of lessons, because, if the present situation resolves sooner than is expected I conject we will have learnt little.  It will be business as usual, with an inconvenient hiatus – for most of us.  To some, my inconvenience has been for them an occasion of great loss.

 

I suspect this lockdown will last longer than we’d wish.  And time itself may be the only thing that effects actual change.

Of course, the temptation to pontificate will prove more than some can resist.  We will hear every hue of prophetic pronunciation and denunciation.  Some of them will be insightful, some will be bizarre, and others inconsequential (much to the chagrin of those would-be prophets).

Lessons may be a way off yet, but not observations.  For instance, churches that are tech savvy have responded quickly, and in many cases very effectively.  Some had already shown prescience doing online services.  They have sophisticated systems that adapt to numerous platforms to keep connections alive among the church community.  Many of these have resources to continue in high quality productions featuring worship and preaching.  A normal Sunday, except online.  But is this optimal?  We may need to wind the clock back before we can answer this.

 

Until the time of the Reformation, church community gatherings were largely ‘us and them.’  The focal view of churches was the sacramental table, administered by ‘them’ – the priest.  He celebrated the host, dispensed the wafer, and proclaimed the gospel in sacramental terms, all in Latin. Essentially, he did our religion for us.  He had to, we barely understood what he intoned.

 

With the upheaval of the Protestant Reformation, the focus of the churches, in time, became the pulpit from which the minister preached the gospel in the vernacular, expecting adherence to its truth.  

The pulpit, if not front and central by location, was elevated above the congregation (for voice projection reasons, but also a point was being made), and central to the mission of the church.  If you visit a Roman Catholic or a Protestant church today, you will still see this essential difference.

This heritage is deeply embedded in the life blood of our churches – Protestant, Pentecostal, Evangelical.  Preaching is the high point of a service – the direction they are geared towards.   I doubt this thought will raise an eyebrow.

But does this focus tend to obscure, or take out of focus, biblical patterns/paradigms that the scriptures present for church life?  And, maybe we have an opportunity to refocus due to this pandemic? 

It sounds as if this is already being done in many churches, where connection with community is, at very least, supplementing preaching.  Of course, it is never going to be either or, nor should it be.  It is both, but a balance is being redressed.

 

In our foundation texts Acts 2:42-47 describes the structure of the church after the day of Pentecost.  Debate still exists as to whether these verses are prescriptive or descriptive.  It is likely to be both, and may even bend towards prescriptive, as Luke is writing with specific purpose, including this part of the churches narrative in Acts to call his readers back to this pattern of church life.  Even in his time of writing the church needed to remember.

Teaching is the mentioned, then fellowship, the lifestyle, followed by breaking of bread and prayers. Generosity to/amongst God’s people is also included in this list.

 

The picture is clear.  Community contextualised everything. 

Most of these elements were not temple based, as teaching may have been.  They were connected to homes, meals and fellowship.  Teaching is not minimised, but it doesn’t dominate – God’s people being together eating, praying and caring for each other does, even if for the purpose of hearing the apostle’s teaching.

In a further example the apostle John writing in I John 1:3 states that the purpose of his proclamation was so that those who heard would have fellowship with those that spoke.  John didn’t preach to be merely heard; he preached to affect connection with his hearers and with himself, which in turn would be with the Father and the Son.  This is a different purpose to preaching; it has shared community and shared experience as its end.

 

All to say, maybe in lockdown the observable trend of heightened community connection (so much more like the church Luke saw) is as important as preaching messages. 

If Sunday online is no different than an ordinary Sunday, I suspect we may be out of focus.  Why perpetuate a monolithic model, that fewer seem attracted to, and not use this time to ramp up and enjoy connections with your community – as well as, not instead of.

Some are forced to do this, simply because they have neither the technology nor the know-how to present professionally competent content.  Others are choosing to add life giving community to content rich communication.

If the four or five fundamentals Luke presents in Acts 2 are about community then an overdeveloped emphasis on preaching pulls this picture out of focus.

Going back to our foray into history, in a reaction to a sacramental approach to church meetings preaching became the replacement.  Even here it isn’t either or, but something has been left out of the picture; a picture Luke was at pains to ratify in Acts – the vital and sustaining role of community, a community that hears together, eats together, receives communion together, prays together, and cares for one another, together.

It appears ironic that we may now be doing this better online than we did offline.   This is as incongruous as the pandemic is ubiquitous.

 

Simon Circle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return Of The Shepherd Part II

Joanna Mikac   |   February 3, 2020

Return Of The Shepherd Part Ii

I hope you have heard the message, ‘Return of the Shepherd,’ by the articulate Leanne Matthesius.  The title has a Tolkien resonance to it, does it not?

Leanne has superb insight into, amongst other things, the value and glory of the task of caring for God’s flock, which, if we want to get Pauline about it, is largely what we are asked to do.  “Pay careful attention … to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”  Acts 20:28. The precious possession of the Lord’s church demands the care of attentive shepherds.

 

This got me thinking about the role of a shepherd and how vastly different it is from the other ascension gifts enumerated in Ephesians 4.  We aren’t completely sure if Paul was referring to four or five roles/gifts.  It would seem to be four as the pastor is also, necessarily, the feeder – the teacher.  It is difficult to be or do one without the other.

But it wasn’t this that piqued my attention.

 

I spoke at an Evangelists gathering – yes, you heard right – and addressed the topic of the pastor and the evangelist, how they relate and how they can co-operate.  As an aside to the conversation it struck me that, apart from the pastor, the ascension gifts by and large (and remember when reading this, you have to exaggerate differences sometimes to see the difference) are reasonably straight forward, almost black and white.

The Apostle

The apostle is a ground breaker, requiring resilience and focus. They normally don’t deal with the tangle of lives.

The Prophet

The prophet is a proclaimer, a revealer, and they are often black and white – in the sense that a picture, a word, is relatively clear and always a simplification.

The Evangelist

The evangelist is a bringer of good news.  The cross, forgiveness, faith are straightforward enough. Of all these the evangelist is probably the most black and white –  they need to be.

The Teacher

The teacher speaks of truth, application to lifestyle, and is often systematic in presentation.

The Pastor

But the pastor, ohh yes the pastor, deals with the inconvenience of nuance, the complication of lives, the tangle of relationships, of humanity – messy, complex and sheep like.  To pastor you have to reconcile yourself to nuance.  Things are always less straight forward in the sheep pen.

 

I suggest pastoring may be the most difficult, the most awkward of the ministries, because nothing is so complex as people. 

The other equally important gifts can avoid the tangle a little more easily, especially if they travel.

For the pastor the nuance of situations, that never seem to quite conform to biblical verities, has to be constantly navigated.  Almost every situation requires a different approach. The sermon on Sunday has to be massaged into mess, bad decisions and self-orientation.

If you are a pastor, you necessarily will have to trade in nuance.  If you can’t you are in the wrong job.

 

Go the pastors – you are the real heroes.

 

Simon Circle

The Whisper Of Changes & Trends

Joanna Mikac   |   July 10, 2019

Simon Blog Title

Simon McIntyre
Senior Pastor C3 Fulham and Regional Director C3 Europe

 

If we join a few dots it’s possible to trace changes that are on the way, if not already with us.  These changes won’t be all-encompassing (changes seldom are) and in some cases, they may prove counterproductive.  They appear to be nudging above the horizon like the morning sun – unstoppable, inevitable, and bringing light.

I submit the following for comment and reflection.

 

COMMUNITY isn’t just another way of describing the church. It has specific local implications.  People are less likely, and less willing, to travel long distances and we would be hard-pressed to suggest that this is due to a lack of commitment to God’s church. In fact, it could prove to be the exact opposite.

People want a localised community of believers that connects them to each other, as well as the broader community around them.

Some churches will buck this trend for reasons of size, influence, pulpit dynamics, multiplicity of ministry, etc.

Globalisation, the great liberal and economic dream to contain prosperity and peace, is waning in popularity as people wish for a return to national identities.  This terrifies many (in Europe) as they see a possible return to the days of fascism seen in Germany and Italy. However, globalisation simply doesn’t and can’t account for a real, reasonable and heartfelt connection by nationals to their own country.  This comes out very clearly in sports.  For better or for worse (we are yet to see) the UK abandoned its membership of the European Union, in part because the of the perceived loss of national sovereignty around laws, finances and borders, all of which create identity.

All this to say: people want identity as much as belonging. 

Large churches will and should always exist, but two thousand years of Christian history has taught us that most will be considerably smaller, despite all the consulting, encouraging (and occasional chiding) that we do.  This is not pessimism.  It is realistic, without dishonouring Christ’s promise as the head of the church to build his church. It is a challenge to us: do we believe he will?

 

BUILDINGS are very expensive to build and maintain, and they are often empty for much of the week.  Exceptions exist, but that is why we call them exceptions – they are exceptional, not normal.  Some pastors are talking of renting buildings for Sunday and buying ministry centres – with multiple and consistent weekly use.  There are always advantages of owning your own, as you aren’t at the whim, the mercy, of landlords, who can be everything from accommodating to not so.  A building may also make us less flexible under times of duress – not something I am prophesying.

These in themselves are not defining arguments. I suspect the bigger issue is fiscal resourcing for smaller churches.  Locking up their money in bricks and mortar is less appealing than mission and staff.

I’m a fan of owning but I am also a baby boomer to whom owning was and is sacrosanct.  Others don’t necessarily feel this way.  Whole nations don’t feel this way.

 

LEADERSHIP structures are changing or, at least, diversifying.  A common trend seems to be the flattening of structures, whilst not diminishing the need for leadership.

Trends can be reactions, and in the case of leadership, the reaction is towards unilateral decision making. Some younger pastors and leaders are wanting to avoid the liabilities of top-down leadership structures seen in corporations.  The collapse of so many high-profile leaders is a worrying trend, but to throw the baby out with the bath water wastes both water and child.

Some of this change is biblically-driven in the recognition of gifting or role as the means of governing God’s church.  Paul was a strong leader (a great understatement) but he asked Titus and Timothy to set up leadership structures that were elder-based, and not so much individual-based.  It looks to me like a case of both, not either/or.

The call for accountability and confession in younger leaders is a healthy reaction and should be welcomed.

 

In conclusion, these are far from the only trends, as Mark Kelsey affirmed at the Pastors Gathering in Sydney this year, in his excellent session on trends within the church.

In some ways these trends are oblique, but identifiable nonetheless.

 

 

To find out more about Ps Simon McIntyre and C3 Fulham, visit c3fulham.com.

Re-Baptising Language

Joanna Mikac   |   July 13, 2018

Simon McIntyre

C3 Europe Regional Director and Pastor of C3 Fulham

 

Currently there are some words (popular words) acting as catch phrases and, it could be added, catch-out phrases.  These words have enormous defining and limiting power. They often exclude in their wish to include.  Any attempt to disagree or question receives Orwellian condemnation, by an outraged righteousness.  Diatribe replaces debate.

 

‘Diversity’ once meant difference.

‘Inclusion’ once meant invite.

‘Identity’ once meant what you are.

 

Diversity is now a legislated quota.

Inclusion now excludes and condemns by legislation.

Identity is now whatever you choose, soon to be legislated.

 

What if we were to re-baptize diversity, inclusion and identity – breathe new life into old words, give them new meanings?

God’s church is a study in diversity, inclusion and identity.  If we were to plunge these words in fresh water, a new creature might emerge, re-baptised, renewed – fit for purpose.

 

Diversity

Diversity is trying to redress imbalances and injustices that are deeply entrenched.  These are often not lacking in any civility. Kindness can go a long way.

The answer to a lack of diversity is essentially a legislated process to the end that doesn’t and can’t account for kindness; in fact, it may well diminish it, as being told to is different than wanting to.

Whilst gaining some ground the process may be losing more than it is gaining, partially because it is public-speak, in that people are actually afraid to question.  This may produce conformity of speech, and how far is that from totalitarian power, but no real change has been secured, just resentful acquiescence.

I posit that in spite of the apparent progress of the community we are further from kindness and civility that ever before.  The goal is further from sight, caused by the very process that is meant to ensure it.

The gospel was published in a world where diversity was not on the table.  The divides were obvious and inviolate: Jewish and Gentile, Roman and Barbarian, male and female, slave and free.  Systems of value and worth excluded, be they economic, social, racial or religious.   You were in or you were out.  (And this was largely defined for you at birth.)

The gospel of Jesus has accomplished something in regards diversity that no human agency or law is capable of.  The entire system of worth and exclusion along with the obvious oppressions it enforces, has been done away with by the cross of Christ.  Dividing walls have been abolished in that God’s people are no longer defined by race, sex and social status. These differences may not necessarily or quickly disappear but their excluding value no longer holds sway in the new community of the church.

The church embraces diversity and celebrates difference without flattening everything in an attempt at uniformity.  It is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

Diversity is not best expressed in uniformity – but in unity.  And unity is a matter of the heart not the law.

 

Inclusion

Inclusion of minorities should never be an issue.  It is quite another matter to be compelled to do so by demand with punitive consequences.  Were graciousness to steer the ship of state (probably too much to ask, and maybe not the role of the state) we would not require the legislative muscle of inclusivity.

Inclusion hasn’t brought with it respect, love or pity (rightly appreciated) but a demand for acceptance of lifestyles, sexual proclivities and the re-engineering of family – all part and parcel of the repackaging of inclusion.  Include or else.  How swiftly the underdog becomes top dog, making others the under dog.

It isn’t enough to simply allow or show grace.  We now have to act and speak as if any preference is now enshrined as a human right. Nothing has been more redefined than what does or does not, may or not may, constitute fundamental human rights.  It used to be human rights premised on a Christian-ised foundation of man’s imperfectability and good of the community, now it is my right, premised on a belief in the inherent goodness and perfectibility of humankind.

Anyone with half a brain knows that when we trump community with the individual we have effectively rewritten most every moral and ethical code/law in the history of mankind.  I doubt good will come of it!

God’s church is the master of inclusion, a robust inclusion into community and conformity to the image of Jesus Christ. No organisation on earth has so successfully included in its ranks such a diversity of humanity – the good, the bad and the ugly.

The exclusivity of the church is not in her welcome – at this point the church is all about welcome and inclusion – but in her call to holiness, the re-engineering of the image of God in us through Christ.

 

Identity

Identity is fundamental to wellbeing – to communities, to individuals.  This is axiomatic.  Ask someone who was adopted.  No matter how well they have been cared for, loved, a gap usually exists in regards their identity that isn’t soon, if ever, completely satisfied.

Our identity in large measure comes from community. It is likely that the hermetic person is profoundly insecure about their identity, as it is not possible to adequately form identity in vacuums of self-reference.  We are not ourselves by ourselves.

Identity is under assault in part because we are assaulting the institutions and structures that promote it.  Whilst we continue to mock and decry family/marriage by turning it into a parody of itself we undermine the very structure that prompts a secure identity.   The insecurity of children with no effectual father or divorcing parents is monumental, and legally reprehensible.

It is no surprise, nor should it be, that pre/post pubescent are confused about their identity and wishing to re-identify, what with the perfect storm of community collapse and puberties own confusion crashing in on them.

I predict the day will come in which they take legal action against their parents and/or the state for allowing them to express themselves in realigning their biological identity, when they, seriously, didn’t know better.

Except in the rarest of cases, to be shown all the help and grace available, our identity is reasonably and simply identified.

The struggle of few may have become the fantasy of many.

Gaining our identity from both our biology and our community may not, however, be sufficient.  Creation gave us an identity as God’s creatures and image bearers that in light of sin and the fall has been dislocated in ways both subtle and earth shattering.  A new identity in the creation of a new humanity founded in faith makes us new creations in Christ.

Being in Christ is identity securing in ways both immediate and unimaginable.  We are participating as church and as individuals in the life and promise of the Risen Lord. He is far above all rule and power, and everything that minimises, relativizes, and confuses his image in humankind.  We are included in Him.  If his identity is secure so is ours.  If his identity is divine so is ours.  In Him we have fullness.

We find a new community and therefore a new identity as one of God’s people, his church.

 

We are diverse, yet one in Christ.  We are included in Christ.  We are new creations in Christ.

 

 

Leaving A Legacy

Joanna Mikac   |   May 18, 2018

Simon McIntyre

C3 Europe Regional Director

Most want to leave a positive legacy – few don’t care.  Fact is; we all will leave one, for better or for worse.  If death isn’t an option then neither is leaving a legacy.

If we can define legacy we will know what it is we should be leaving.  If we can’t, we are likely to think of the wrong things, or things of less importance surviving us.

A legacy should be a positive and defining influence, often, but not always, including an inheritance, left in the lives of others.  Of course it can be much less than this – a legacy can also be one of failure and ineptitude, or worse.  Some leave debt as their legacy; however, this is hardly the sort of legacy we have in mind.

Jesus’ legacy, which can’t be bettered, is found in the lives of his disciples.  He left no other legacy than the formation and influence of his church, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Initially there were no church buildings, no institutions, no charities, universities or hospitals, nor legacies in terms of tangible items.  Some of these came latter, and aren’t necessarily unimportant, but it is the priority of disciples, his church, that is his prime and enduring legacy.  His church is the only thing he said he would build.  Most other things are temporal; they have a habit of passing away, out of use, or out of fashion.  Not so, his people.

It is striking and noteworthy that the church in Colossae, to which Paul penned the stunningly revelatory insight into the reign and divinity of Christ, was severely damaged, if not wiped out by an earthquake in 61AD.  And this possibly only twenty years, or so, after the church was established.  Church scholars posit it had a likely maximum 60 members.

What was Paul’s legacy in this instance?  It wasn’t a surviving community, much less a building.  The legacy was in transformed lives, the fact that some would have left and spread the good news whether as sent, or as merchants and traders, and, of course, the Letter to the Colossians – as a magnificent legacy as can be imagined.

The Western world is replete with virtually empty historic church buildings that were once vibrantly occupied, filled.  Today they are, in numerous instances, a financial noose around the neck of denominations, or a burden to the government.  Whilst some denominations are renewing them with younger congregations/communities using them, many are sold, for everything from art galleries to apartments.

They looked like an enduring legacy when founded, but the real legacy has always been the lives of the people who heard and believed the gospel.

Westminster Chapel in London was once the pulpit of the luminary Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones.  Today it is more empty than full, and has never been filled week by week as it once was, with due respect to the excellent preachers who have since led the church.  It may never be full again, in spite of our fondest wishes and prayers.  The sort of building, its structure and construction, is possibly no longer relevant.

It may be that what we consider a legacy today may in fact be a noose tomorrow, if we see buildings and institutions as defining our legacy.

God’s church may require flexibility about buildings that sentiment finds difficult to swallow.

Our legacy is first and foremost disciples, the people we influence for and by Jesus Christ.  These people may at any one time be scattered over communities, over cities, nations, and hemispheres.  They may not see you year by year, they may long have moved on to different church environments, and yet when occasion affords it they are quick to tell you what a defining influence your life, ministry and words had on them.  This is our legacy, and it trumps all others – buildings, ministries, books, titles – you name it, it won’t and can’t measure up to disciples.

For Legacy Planning make Disciples

A Tribute To Shepherds

Joanna Mikac   |   February 8, 2018

Simon McIntyre

Luke 2:8 

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock by night.”

Opening Remarks

It is commonly accepted that shepherds were at, or very near, the bottom end of the social scale – lower caste, if you will. They were hardly likely to be on anybody’s ‘invite list.’  Neither their job nor their charges were particularly glorious.  Sheep are smelly, prone to wander, scare easily, and get themselves into a pickle (or a bush).

When it came to the announcement of the birth of the saviour it would have taken a brave prophet indeed to suggest the shepherd’s inclusion, much less the appearance of the heavenly host to them.  Royal worshippers from afar yes, local shepherds – hardly.  And, yet …

 

I recall attending revivalist meetings (extraordinary in themselves) at which some speakers berated Pastors in front of their flocks. This always struck me as self-defeating, somewhat ironic, considering it is the Pastors who care for the people who attend these meetings – church members.

I would counsel less haste at condemning the people who are responsible for those that come, and who financially support the meetings, by virtue of their people being there.

Perhaps shepherds are still the least likely to be noticed or honoured?

Perhaps they lack the sophistication of the academic, the gifting of the gifted, or the resources of the connected?   And, yet …

 

In the 1970’s Teachers were all the rage.  In the 1980s Prophets entered the domain of church life, and since then Leaders have been front and centre.   Undoubtedly we have all benefitted from these ministry gifts.  And yet, behind the scenes we find the Pastors – those who more naturally live for, bleed for, and die for, “the sheep of his pasture.”

Reflections on the Text

“And in the same region.”  Shepherds live in the same region, the same locale, as their sheep, and often for most of their lives.  They don’t tend to travel very far.  They can’t.  Sheep aren’t self-sustaining, self-regulating creatures.

The presence of a shepherd matters in regards the health, safety and longevity of the sheep.  Absent shepherds are too much of a temptation for wolves: the unscrupulous, the avaricious, those that consume.  Strength and safety are found in proximity.

“there were shepherds.”  Pastors, you and I.  That is what we are, and that is what we do.

“out in the field.”  This is where the sheep are, in the fields.  They don’t reside in palaces.  Most people live in their fields; fields of employment and endeavour.  Where the sheep are, so also the shepherd.

Life may be less spectacular and more pedestrian in the fields, but this is more indicative of daily life for most than that portrayed in movies, via social media, or on television (Christian and otherwise).

A shepherd is outside, around the sheep, mixing, living with them, as well as feeding and caring for them.  It’s messy.

People are still like sheep in that they go astray, and need a shepherd. They wander, get lost and are prone to infections.

“keeping watch over.”  In the case of a shepherd this requires constant physical vigilance, for reasons already enumerated.

To a Pastor this watchfulness is primarily in and by prayer.  We are mindful of their condition, their productivity (fruitfulness), and the necessity of their proximity to other sheep.

The work is sobering, at times exhausting, never ending, frustrating, rewarding, and fulfilling.  Shepherds watch for wolves, snakes, bugs, and ravines.

The shepherd oversees – they see over the sheep.  They see what is coming, they see implication and outcome.   They oversee.  Sheep don’t and can’t.  They are too busy, head down, eating.

“their flock.”  It is their flock – not another’s, neither is another’s flock theirs.  The sheep were known to the shepherd, and the shepherd to the sheep.  (John 10.)

It is a charge, a responsibility – both calling and privilege.

A shepherd would guide his flock to fresh pasture and water, by means of directing and by means of correcting, using their voice, and where necessary their staff.

A Pastor is to disciple and teach, directing the people towards living water, and fresh nourishment in God’s word.  And, unpopular-ly a Pastor may need to correct with the staff of their authority, on behalf of the great shepherd of the sheep’s souls, and for the wellbeing of the flock.

“by night.”  When no one is looking, when you can’t be seen.  When times are dark, and when it appears thankless.

And Yet …

It wasn’t to Kings and Priests that God revealed his purpose and power, nor was it to philosophers and politicians, nor the rich and powerful.  Luke 3:1-2 lists the powerbrokers of Judea – quite the line up – yet it was to John in the wilderness that the word of the Lord came to.

And it was to the shepherds that God displayed his heavenly glory.   In the appearance of the angel, and the heavenly host, the shepherds were made privy to one of the most important junctures in history: the birth of a child in humble circumstances, in a little village on the outskirts of a great empire.

What glory, what wonder, what unexpected recipients.  Who’d have thought it  – of all people, shepherds?

This is God’s tribute to the Shepherd.

And this is mine to you – the faithful, the unseen.  May God reveal to you a heavenly vision of His Son, of angelic powers, befitting of shepherds – who still watch their flocks by night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Considerations on Same Sex Marriage

Joanna Mikac   |   June 12, 2017

If you would prefer to read as a PDF, please click here: C3 Forum_SameSexMarriage.

 

Human rights if not anchored in something outside of human rights will always end in being individual rights, my rights – in that, what I consider right is therefore indubitably my right, should be enshrined in law, and woe to anyone that suggests otherwise. Of course in any society that has a Christian moral memory, this may seem to work for a season, but once we have effectively stripped away God and the Bible we will be (are becoming) the victims of radical moral decay, with its attendant social misery. And in a strange twist (apparent) discrimination has come full circle so that the persons who once cried oppression are now at the vanguard of oppressing anyone that opposes their view. Any concept of community and moral well-being is thus swamped in the flood of ‘my rights.’

We believe and affirm that God sets both our value (very high) and the moral and ethical parameters that assist in maintaining that value, whilst the age we live in has championed the cause of total and complete freedom re. choices and morality, which in turn has caused an unprecedented collapse of family, moral integrity and personal disciplines, not to mention a crisis in mental health. The redefining of all these issues is the unapologetic agenda of cultural Marxism. Redefining marriage is part of the agenda of so-called progress. C.S. Lewis remarked, however, that people suffer from ‘chronological snobbery’ thinking everything modern to be necessarily better than anything ‘medieval.’

Redefinition of words, words that for millennia meant essentially the same thing, should alert us to the importation of concepts that are very different than those the words originally meant. This is an attempt to change a worldview within a culture by changing the language itself.[1] Many words have been re-engineered to mean something far from their original intent, and the effect of this is that people don’t see what is being promulgated, subtly or otherwise. (Postmodernity has no conscience when it comes to conscience.)

Politically Correct thought/speech has done some service in forbidding rampant and unacceptable verbal vitriol.[2] But equally, it is leading to the curtailment of free speech at a spectacular rate.[3] And coincidentally creating nervous hesitant communications.

There are many able apologists in the Christian world that graciously and wisely can take on arguments such as genetic pre-determinism and sexual orientation, human rights and ensuing legal arguments. This is not our goal in this paper. We wish to reiterate the view of scripture about the role and destiny of men and women, as this gives people hope and safety.

 

Scripture

We come back to the issue of the scriptures revelatory understanding that the image of God is seen in man and woman – not one, not a combination of the one, but the complimentary two, male and female. This is our starting point and the place we come back to.

The opening chapter of Genesis is very carefully crafted to ensure that we see the binary nature of the physical world – heaven and earth, land and sea, night and day, etc. This climaxes in the creation of man and woman – the binary picture in its most exquisite and final form.

From a mere physical point of view, there is no continuation of the human species without a man and a woman, and it can’t be argued that the optimal way to raise a child is with people of the same sex. Practicality may argue that it is better for two women or two men to raise a child rather than just a lonely one, or dysfunctional male and female. But the jury is out.[4]

Men and women are significantly different, and where that difference is downplayed or eradicated something of God’s own image is likely missing. The creative order is clearly binary and no naturally occurring productive options exist aside from a male and female. Part of God’s mandate of being made in his image is clearly seen in the reproductive increase of mankind upon the earth as we express God’s image and will.   A case can be made that marriage isn’t only for reproduction, but it still is normal to include this, and homosexuality can’t; by its very non-reproductive nature.

Not only so, but marriage, aside from being the foundation of just society and human relationships, is a picture of Christ and his church – according to Paul. This elevates marriage into the stratosphere in what it represents. The image of bride and groom is clearly in mind, nothing more and certainly nothing less. There appears no way this picture can be made anything but heterosexual in orientation.

And it is at this point that some insist that scripture is their truth source as well but has been discriminatory in treatment towards homosexual people. (Christians may have been – granted, sadly.) They present a hermeneutic that has revised the intent and outcome of every single reference in scripture to homosexuality. Dr Ian Paul has written a booklet on this – Same-Sex Unions: The Key Biblical Texts.[5] With scholarly care, he shows the traditional readings to be the ones that stand up to scrutiny, rather than revisionist readings.

A common argument used when attempting to validate same-sex unions is the (spurious) argument that the scriptures also speak of slavery in apparently acceptable terms along with poor treatment of woman. Both these areas have been championed by Gods church, so homosexuality should be, it is argued. Although the scriptures see a real change in attitude towards both woman (especially Jesus[6]) and slavery there is no such progressive movement when it comes to our sexuality. In this instance, the New Testament ratifies and strengthens

anything in the Old, so that the analogy between slavery and women, and homosexuality simply does not exist.

Another shift that has enabled a change in sexual behaviour is the change in how we use the word – love. It now means love as emotion, preference, inevitability, and is linked to my choice. If this is truly the case then it must needs to follow that all sorts of sexual preferences are viable – pornography, polygamy, sadism, incest, bestiality, and even necrophilia. To say these are all legitimate is consistent with our new definition of the word love, and we should hardly be surprised that these options are being presented as legal alternatives.

God is love but love is not God.

A biblical understanding and appreciation of love are that it is first and foremost a word used to describe a love that is sacrificial before it is fulfilling, ethical, before it is personal, and based on truth, before it is about my needs and emotions. This love was magnificently displayed for us in the cross of Christ, not in an Elvis chapel in Vegas. But it is costly and doesn’t always take into account our feelings, and therefore it is not so popular. Nevertheless, it is the stuff of legends.

Some have cleverly disconnected love from biblical injunctions about things such as holiness, but scripture marries the two. We are to love the sinner, as Christ did, but not their/our sin that he died for. It isn’t love to insist behaviour condemned by Gods word is viable, acceptable and to be promoted, and yet that is what is being insisted upon by those wishing to validate same-sex unions.

Further to this is the picture painted in Romans 1 about sexual denigration that is itself linked to idolatry, arguably the greater problem. Paul sees the issue of same-sex relationships as an inevitable outcome from the lack of honour and thankful worship to God because we chose to worship the creature and not the creator.[7]   This is a serious indictment of and insight into human nature – deeply idolatrous. This does lead to the idea of demonic influence over the direction and choices of communities/nations. Whilst an unpopular view, even in the Christian world, it does help explain at times the inexplicable, and it is certainly true to the writings of Paul in his letters, and especially in Colossians which speaks in clear terms of rulers and authorities.[8]

Without solid biblical warrant we will be subject to shifting sands of moral expectation, and to the strident demands of the world, we live in. It is to be remembered that the two defining features of the Jewish worldview that Jesus clearly took as axiomatic were: repudiation of idols and that sex before and outside of marriage was unacceptable, marriage being defined as that between a man and a woman.   This is our moral heritage and we need not feel ashamed of it or cowed by the world (itself a confusion of right and wrong). But it will make us unpopular.

 

Pastoral

Understanding some of these thoughts is half the picture. Responding is the other half.

We are all on a journey into the realised fullness of Christ, and need to take great care we don’t offend/belittle someone on the same path. We are all sinners saved by grace. We are saved by grace, and we are being saved by grace.

Our churches are open to all, and all can be saved.[9] In fact, our churches welcome anyone from whatever their background into the renewing fellowship of Christ and his church. But this is not the same as saying, come and stay as you are. Jesus Christ and he alone transforms us into his image – an image of truth, holiness and righteousness.

Our collective journey is out of sin and brokenness into righteousness and joy. This gives none of us a right to exclude and demonise, but neither are we to be held captive to the demands and social trends of the world we live in.

We are inclusive in that all are welcome and exclusive in that we believe Jesus is the only way of and to salvation.

Care should be shown to people who want to engage re their sexuality. And we should be careful of inflammatory language that is exclusionary by nature, in our preaching and teaching the good news of Jesus.

God is love, and the cross is the answer.[10]

 

Further Considerations

Sadly, taking into account current legal trends, we may be wise (if not forced) to redefine membership so that in our by-laws we only marry people who are current members, and that have received marriage guidance/counselling.[11] In this case, we are essentially presiding over Blessings Services – as the State itself provides the legal certificate of marriage.

Although the English Parliament, in legalizing same-sex marriages, has declared that churches will not be forced to marry same-sex couples, this is likely to be contested at which point we will simply disengage from marriage ceremonies as they stand and/or involve ourselves in civil disobedience, if the state demands we use our churches for same-sex ceremonies.

In some countries (Australia being one) marriage celebrants are also the ministers. It may be prudent to hand back marriage licenses and confine ourselves to Blessing Services for our people – which we see as the true validation of marriage, being in the eyes of God and his church. People will still wisely obtain a Legal Certificate of Marriage at Registry Offices.

 

Resources 

  1. Please see below Article from Revd. Canon J. John. Gay Marriage: Issues and Arguments. A good overview from the Canon.
  2. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? Kevin DeYoung. IVP, 2015. A straightforward, accessible, yet scholarly, look at the main arguments presented by revisionists re the texts on homosexuality in scripture. De Young is faithful to the tone and intent of scripture, and uncompromising in his conclusions. He refutes the arguments in favour of same-sex relationships with care and skill.
  3. Can you be Gay And Christian? Responding with Love and Truth to Questions about Homosexuality. Michael L. Brown. FrontLine, 2014. This is a comprehensive treatise by Dr Brown. He is a Hebrew scholar, which gives credence to his arguments against attempts to make the Scriptures into a text that affirms same-sex relationships. Brown is more provocative than DeYoung, and is, at times, sarcastic/provocative. His material is well researched and compelling, if not occasionally alarming.
  4. Same-sex Unions: The Key Biblical Texts. Ian Paul. Grove Books Ltd, Cambridge, 2014. This little book in the excellent Grove Biblical Series looks at all the Biblical Texts that mentions homosexuality. He responses to modern ‘revisionism’ that attempts to validate same-sex relationships. Typical of British Scholarship rewrites plainly and kindly, and whilst saying clearly that same-sex relationships can’t be biblically validated, he does so with grace. Dr Paul is an Associate Minister and Honorary Professor at Nottingham.

 

Gay Marriage: Issues and Arguments – Canon J.John[12]

1. Some General Observations On The Current Issue

It is interesting to ask why the gay agenda is currently so prominent. Let me suggest the following reasons.

  • Society has become fragmented and urbanised; the homosexual lifestyle that was unthinkable in a village of linked families now goes almost unnoticed in the anonymity of a city.
  • There has been an erosion of both churchgoing generally. Amongst those who do attend church regularly there has been a loss of confidence in Christian morality.
  • Relativism and ‘tolerance’ has undermined the absolute claims of Christianity.
  • Society has come to believe that the ultimate objective of existence is not doing God’s will but being personally fulfilled.       Finding sexual fulfilment is now not just a personal obligation but a creedal item. Churches have not been immune to the hedonist agenda; the unsung chorus in all too many places of worship might easily include the line ‘It’s all about me, Jesus!’
  • In many circles it is now fashionable to be gay. There is considerable subtle and open pro-gay propaganda at every level, which it is difficult to counter without being accused of homophobia. Ironically, in an age of political correctness, to be gay is now a positive advantage at interviews. There is very definitely over-representation of homosexuals in the media.
  • Fear of offence against the new morality of Political Correctness means that people with concerns on the issue feel obliged to stay silent.
  • There has been some clever ‘verbal footwork’, which has allowed gayness to be portrayed as being in the same category as colour or gender. The impact of this has been to portray ‘gay equality’ simply the next logical and inevitable step of emancipation.

It is worth noting that although the government talks of ‘consultation’ the word here does not bear its traditional meaning. In the past, a consultation was to ask people’s opinions before a decision so that their views could be incorporated into what was decided. Now the role of a consultation appears to be to minute people’s grievances after a decision is made. Certainly there is every evidence that ministerial minds are already made up. What controls political decisions in this, and other areas, is not so much a moral compass as a moral weathervane.

You do not have to be a Christian to have concerns about the issues raised by this concept. It is important to remember that despite the sneers, it is not homophobic, fundamentalist or politically incorrect to raise such concerns. Indeed you could argue – as some have – that redefining marriage in this way does no service to the gay community itself.

 

2. The Issues

Let me raise the issues as I see them.

a) First of all let us deal with the fundamental argument that is often made that ‘being gay’ is a genetic or developmental condition over which an individual has no control; the view that it is as much a given as race or hair colour. As such, the argument goes, homosexual practice cannot, and should not, be legislated against and should therefore be treated exactly the same as heterosexuality. On these grounds the ability to be married should extend to gay people. This argument is however profoundly flawed. Human sexuality is messy and includes a range of conditions which are, to say the least, problematic. These include: voyeurism, rape, addiction to pornography, polygamy, polyandry, incest, sadism, masochism, paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and, the inability to have stable relationships with a single person. Presumably many (or all) of these have genetic roots and those who engage in them would say ‘I can’t help myself.’ Now no one (one hopes) would want to say that all of these are satisfactory expressions of sexuality, which should be endorsed by society: we all draw a line somewhere. Gay-rights activists cannot even get out of it by saying that we should only endorse loving sexual relations between consenting adults. Passing over the difficulties involved in the word love it is important to note that polygamy, polyandry, sadism, masochism and – critically – incest might all be acceptable practices within this definition. In other words, Christians and atheists alike agree that there are some forms of behaviour that are unacceptable and should be outlawed and that those who wish to pursue them must resist the temptation to do so. There is therefore no logical difference between the gay position and that of the Bible-believing Christian; we both draw a line but we draw it in different places for different reasons. This is at the heart of the point that Christians are not against homosexual orientation but against homosexual practice.

b) There is what we might call the ‘progressive fallacy’ at work here. This is the view that emancipation is a continuous, unstoppable moral process. So first of all we liberated and gave rights to slaves, and then we liberated and gave rights to women and now, it is argued, the process inevitably continues, with the emancipation of gay people. This view is extremely simplistic. In the case of slaves and women, we are talking about a fundamental social or biological identity, not a behavioural practice.

c) Heterosexual marriage is endorsed as a fundamental basic of society by almost every human culture and is a phenomenon that is nearly universal throughout both history and geography. It is also an unarguable fact that a working marriage is the foundation of social stability, a proven source of human happiness and best basis for the nurture of children. Surveys suggest that most women (and many men) in partnerships would prefer to be married.

d) A related concern (shared by many who hold no religious position) is over the speed of change with which homosexual practice is being normalised. What is being proposed is a dramatic experimentation with marriage; a near-universal social structure lying at the very core of society with millennia of tradition behind it. We know almost nothing about the long-term stability and medical and psychological healthiness of gay couples and little more of the effectiveness or otherwise of such people in areas, for example, like the upbringing of children. On purely pragmatic grounds it would seem wise to wait a generation or two while gay marriages in countries where they are already allowed are observed carefully before encouraging gay marriage within our own society.

e) The motives for this proposed change are suspect. Civil partnerships have existed since 2004 and appear to work satisfactorily. So why is there this demand for a change in the basis of marriage? It’s hard not to conclude that this is a deliberate and aggressive attack on traditional heterosexual marriage. A small but vocal minority within the gay community seem to be pushing for ‘a take it or break it’ attitude to marriage. And within this government there appears to be little more than a desire to follow the crowd and gain votes. This combination of hostility and expediency is the worst possible basis for legislation.

f) As Christians we have to turn to Scripture. Unfortunately a lot of the debate has been fought over texts within the Old Testament or the New Testament letters, which condemn homosexual practice. These are important and should not be ignored but they are open to being dismissed as culturally determined ethical principles. We are surely on much safer ground by going back to the scriptural definition of humanity and marriage. In the first pages of Genesis we find first of all, the definition of humanity as being made male and female in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). In other words, neither sex on its own fully reflects God. The image of God is most obviously seen when men and women are linked together in marriage. Secondly, in Genesis 2 we see the setting out of a clear definition of marriage (Genesis 2:18-24): “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Christianity has always upheld that the only legitimate expression of sexuality is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman. What is important about these definitions is that they have the very highest possible authority. These verses are directly quoted and reaffirmed by Jesus. ‘“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6). As if this were not enough, St Paul re-endorses the same passage in Ephesians 5:31. These statements are surely some of the most non-negotiable in Scripture.

g) There is the issue of precedent. If we feel that we are free to redefine marriage what, if anything, do we now exclude from legal ‘marriage’? Polygamy? Any combination and number of partners? Animals? Once you have dismantled the weighty historical and biblical foundations that uphold traditional marriage what other foundation will we erect in its place? And why, having done this, should this new foundation hold?

h) There is real and genuine concern that churches will be forced to conduct gay marriages. We are assured that this will not be the case yet the momentum of the gay rights juggernaut is surely not going to stop at the recognition of same-sex marriage. This raises interesting questions of oppression of human rights.The gay marriage movement raises significant and

i) The gay marriage movement raises significant and little discussed questions over gender. At the heart of the ‘gay marriage agenda’ is a presumption that men and women are sufficiently identical that they can be interchanged in relationships. It is taken for granted that it doesn’t fundamentally matter whether a relationship is male-female, male-male or female-female. Yet the Bible, psychology and experience combine to state that men and women are different in many ways. The biblical definition of humanity as made in the image of God includes not one but both sexes (Genesis 1:27). Feminism did not simply achieve a measure of equality for women but also a hard-won acceptance that women and men are different and that these differences can be celebrated. That victory will be trampled on by allowing same-sex marriage with its disregard of gender differences. Here are problematic issues to do with gender that need to be explored. We need to ask what will happen to gender relationships when we have some communities full of men who do not need women and others peopled by women who do not need men. These are issues that surely need asking sooner rather than later.

j) There is the further issue of how appropriate marriage is as a homosexual institution. Traditional marriage is designed – or has evolved – to accommodate the complementary psychological and physical differences that exist between men and women. Same-sex relationships are very different. So on what basis do we assume that marriage is appropriate for them? Legal homosexual relationships are a relative novelty in the West and surely we need time and study to find out what the best legal and social framework for them. To assume that it is marriage is yet another presumption.

k) A more subtle issue and one that has not been much discussed is the implications of gay marriage for Christian morality generally. Traditional orthodoxy has always held that human beings have two choices: celibacy or faithful heterosexual marriage and that anything outside these areas is sexual sin. Once we approve gay marriage we set aside a scriptural ruling in the specific area of same-sex relationships. We all know the pleas: the biblical passages are culturally determined, they are open to alternative readings, they do not take into account modern knowledge of psychology and behaviour etc. The point is that we have established the principle that if it’s a choice between sexual preferences and Scripture, our sexual preferences win. Staying within the area of homosexuality there must be real questions over what exactly we are endorsing when we approve gay marriage. Are we also approving all expressions of gayness such as the notorious promiscuity of some sectors of the gay community? There is an extraordinary silence over this. Moving beyond this, once gay sex is legitimised, why should we condemn any other form of sexual behaviour? Some men (and possibly women) appear to be genetically predisposed to be sexual adventurers, incapable or unwilling to form stable relationships. How can we now condemn them?

The problem goes further: the same strategy used to undermine the Bible’s authority in issues of homosexuality could easily be deployed in every other area of morality. So for instance, thieves could plead that they should not be condemned because their behaviour is genetically determined. Why, when we have removed its authority from the bedroom, should we accept the Bibles rulings on what happens in the boardroom? The Ten Commandments become written not in stone, but sand.

 

Two Final Points

There are many aspects of this issue that have not been fully discussed. One is the way that what is seen as increasing freedom for homosexual’s results in the loss of freedom of other people. Those people with legitimate grounds for dissent against the normalisation of homosexuality are now being penalised. If, as seems likely, these moves continue so that ultimately religious believers are forced, against their conscience, to affirm and allow gay marriage in their places of worship, then this movement will have become truly repressive. There is something of a tragic irony that what was a move for liberation against oppression has now become the agent of oppression itself.

One other very important issue is this. The gay community may wish the church to bow to public pressure and endorse its agenda. Yet do they really want the church that bows to media pressure and determines its morality by public opinion? Vox populi vox dei is a very dangerous principle. A church that, on that basis was tolerant of homosexuality today could easily bow, if the mood changed, to homophobia, tomorrow. It is in everybody’s interest that the church is allowed to be the church.

 Revd. Canon J.John.

[1] George Orwell’s 1984 is both an indictment and a prophecy about this practice.

[2] Political Correctness, as a term, was coined by Stalin, picked up by Mao Zedong, and is the currency of cultural Marxism with its lust of power and domination of all and any who disagree with its ideology. This alone should make us wary.

[3] See Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? by Mick Hume, William Collins.

[4] In the UK there was a furor when it was suggested that a well known pop star and his homosexual partner were naturally not as well suited to raise their adopted child as a man and woman would be. They took this as a great offence. What was ironic was who said it – Doloce and Gabana, themselves gay, and proud.

[5] Grove Biblical – Grove Books Limited. Same-Sex Unions: The Key Biblical Texts. Dr. Ian Paul. 2014.

[6] See, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey – SPCK.

[7] Romans 1:18-32 and Revelation 2:14, 20, which link closely idols and immorality.

[8] Some prefer these terms to relate to human institutions, but the context and text itself tend to militate against this as the only viable option. It is likely both – human powers and demonic powers – aside from which, how do you separate them?

[9] In light of this please see this link to a great story from C3 Brooklyn https://vimeo.com/127182494

[10] It is still worth our while to realise that same-sex choice/orientation amounts to a very small percentage of society. The figures of 10% are wildly overstated and it is more likely to be 2%-4%. This is no reason for bad behaviour on our behalf but neither is it reason to accede to the same-sex lobby the accord their public volume demands.

[11] This is something C3 Long Island (New York State) has already enacted.

[12] Used with permission.