Reading the Church Times and Church of England Newspaper (CEN) on Saturday morning, an article by Harriet Baber offered sanity when I had been reading madness.
Let’s start with the madness, and first the Church of England Newspaper, which reports that the Rev Graham Taylor, former vicar of Cloughton, Scarborough is converting to Roman Catholicism. Commenting on why he is leaving the CofE he says that if more preached a gospel of salvation “that would cure the ills of this society overnight if properly embraced.” Note that – “cure the ills of society overnight.” Overnight? Do people like Graham Taylor really believe that more preaching according to his understanding of truth and reality will achieve this dramatic result? Madness.
In a letter to the Church Times a Mr Duncan Reeve writes about opposing world-views – he presents a polarity – is the Bible reliable or do modern scientific fads have more authority than the Word of God? He says: “It hard to imagine how the Bible could have been written to make it more clear that Genesis contains a historical account of recent six-day creation.” More madness.
Back to the Church of England Newspaper which reports that the rector of the Sunyani Polytechnic Institution, Prof Kwasi Nsiah Gyabaah, warned that the Anglican Church is losing members to the Catholic and independent churches, blaming the Communion’s divisions over gay bishops and blessings, though he admits that the Church also competes with sports, popular culture and other recreational activities in vying for the attention of people. He admits that a return to an authoritarian model of church governance is not the answer. Instead, he urges the church to be both culturally relevant as well as firmly tied to the unchanging word of God. There it is again, that unchanging word of God, the ‘plain teaching of scripture’, which justifies ignorant attitudes about both creation and human sexuality.
Lastly to the Church Times once again, where Harriet Baber, Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego, California, writes about the Pope’s recent approach to Anglicans.
She asks is: “How will the ongoing realignment of religious identity play out? For now, conservative churches are growing. Religious belief and practice thrive in “traditional cultures” — in developing countries, among immigrants, and within the American working class. There, churches that promote gender roles and “family values” provide a refuge from modernity. But, whatever the short-term benefits for conservative churches, in the long run they will lose.”
“Conservatives have bought time for Christianity by identifying it with a conservative social agenda that still sells, but, in the end, they will lose out for the very same reason: because Christianity is not a moral agenda or social programme, but a revelation of the nature of God, beside which all social arrangements are parochial and trivial.”
Conservatives think they are defending God and protecting Christianity whereas in reality they are doing exactly the opposite, in the UK and North America as well, ultimately, in Africa, Asia and South America. The world does not need more biblical fundamentalism, back to basics or ‘the clear Word of God’ which will transform society overnight. It needs people with prophetic vision and a passion for truth and love, people whose lives are rooted in prayerful awareness of the revelation of God in Scripture, through Jesus Christ, and in myriad, mystical, tender ways in creation and the practice of the presence of God in daily life.