Wednesday 9 December 2009

Struggling to live in a flexible tent craving for the infinite

Before picking up yesterday’s thread on ‘betrayal’, I want to reflect for a moment on my own Christian faith and experience. My faith can feel vulnerable and fragile when it is being bashed around by prejudice in the church and the storms which fly around LGBT issues, as they did yesterday and will continue to rage in the foreseeable future. I need to be reminded that I am not isolated or misguided in my attendance on the God of profound depth, stillness and presence whom I encounter in contemplation and meditation each morning.

This morning, before entering silence, I finished reading ‘Unutterable Love: The passionate Life and Preaching of FW Robertson’ written by Revd Christina Beardsley, a trustee of Changing Attitude representing trans issues and experience. Robertson began ordained life as an evangelical but ended up closer to Unitarianism, drawing towards but not embracing the Oxford movement on the way, a theological liberal who trusted his feelings and intuition and explored the relationship between masculine and feminine.

Ideas on p178 of the book express something of my own faith and experience of God and the Christian path I follow. I need reminding of my own core experience when a storm breaks and I find myself hounded towards a prison of false orthodoxy and Biblical conservatism or literalism.

Robertson was a friend of Lady Byron and explored his theology in correspondence with her. He expressed the view that:

“The tragedy was that faith in the Bible, or even a particular interpretation of the Bible, was frequently substituted for faith in Christ, and in those circumstances he agreed with her “’better no Bible’ indeed.”

“Discovering the fallibility of the Bible had led him to seek God within himself and this subjectivity enabled him to feel that his faith was truly his own.”

“His emphasis on religious interiority, supported by the tenets of idealistic philosophy, [will, through introspection], prove that the deepest human desire is ‘a craving for what is infinite.’”

I turned from Robertson to begin reading ‘Trans/Formations’ edited by Marcella Althaus-Reid and Lisa Isherwood. Lisa writes in her introduction about Trans-theology, transsexuals and the debate about transgender issues.

“The author of St John’s Gospel tells us that God pitched his tent among us, that is to say a very flexible structure, one that moves with the winds of change, one that is mobile, one that can be pitched in many different locations and one that is permeable yet firm. There are absolutely no fixed boundaries in this performance of salvation history among us but rather an ongoing performance of flexible boundaries which successive generations of believers have tried to fix for their own security.” Lisa refers to Bob Goss: “Christianity does not offer security or even survival; there is no survivability ethic at its heart but rather disruptions to fixed and known cherished ways.”

I am with those travellers in the Anglican Communion who are seeking not to abandon faith in God or scripture but to escape from false security, tradition and literalism and expose ourselves to God who loves and nurtures, draws us irresistibly towards the infinitely divine and on the way, painfully transforms us. I wish, as I am sure +Rowan does, that we weren’t in the middle of this chaos and the painful conflict which infiltrates friendships – but we are.

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