god (Photo credit: the|G|™)
If the church is to survive as a purposeful and positive factor in people’s lives then it is going to have to change radically. The superstition and sectarianism that it has depended upon for generations must come to an end if it is to offer modern society a Gospel that is relevant and believable in a new age. Essential truths about the nature of God must be decided upon with a new approach and old interpretations that are harmful, and in many scholarly places discredited, must be rooted out.
It is true that the church has moved away from much that it once taught and it no longer gives credibility to blatant discrimination of Government and economic policies; slavery, serfdom, fear and arrogance have been rejected at last. Though not in every case, not for everyone. We still promote traditions that are anti-gay and the church remains an establishment that holds secrets and shuns openness and truthfulness in its dealings with finance and morality. It is flawed and often behaves in a way that Christ would condemn.
More fundamentally the attempt to include within itself a range of extreme values that are mutually opposed has resulted in a deeply divided house, It needs to define what it holds as true and make those values known. The church needs to be freed from the ill-conceived idea of unity and position itself clearly with the values that Christ taught. It is time to reject the individualistic theories and interpretations that those who are at its extreme ends hold as ‘essential to salvation’.
The church needs to be honest and admit when it is unsure, be humble and admit that it has, and continues to get things wrong. The Church needs to confess its sinfulness and seek forgiveness, for example; when it is harsh and when it obscures the nature of God from the eyes and ears of the people it is called to serve, when it presents instead a vision of God that lacks compassion and accessibility.
To hold on to a God, indeed a Gospel that is excluding of many and irrelevant to most is foolish and cannot be sustained, nor should it be. To believe that access to God is reserved to itself alone is against the word of God and extremists who promote such a view are heretical and wrong.
Holding on to privilege and establishment is contrary to the way that Christ taught us and rejecting that which it believes is embarrassing or it believes is damaging to its own survival is to also reject the God who scandalised His own people by hanging on a cross, rejected and despised.
Maybe it is time for all Christians to review what the Gospel tells us about the nature of God in our world. Perhaps it is a time for all denominations to be humbled by the story of Christ and revisit their thinking and divest themselves of fondly held beliefs that are unhelpful and contradictory.
Re thinking the Gospel is not a novel idea, it has always been part of what we are as Church and history testifies to this, as do the writings of the New Testament themselves. Change can be threatening but seeking a true understanding of the nature of God may demand change from each and every one of us.
I am tired of hearing the pomposity of fundamentalists in the church and the certitude of so many clerics, especially the most senior of our church. There are those who twitter without thinking and I guess they live their lives in much the same way, but feel themselves right and justified by habitually adopting narrow thinking and by holding onto personal creeds that are far from what Christ taught us.
Somewhere in the Church of England there has to be a renaissance. It is time for change and an abandonment of the shackles of tradition. It is time for good people to speak out and be heard, it is time to be open to new thinking and looking at Christ with new eyes. It is time to cast off the bonds of slavery to the past and look seriously at what is relevant to God’s relationship with His people.