Thursday, 27 June 2013

Still trying to understand the tensions.

So yesterday we played the Rector Selector game, which was all well and good, but naturally has its own fall out.

Over lunch I was drawn aside by a friend who keeps a foot firmly in 2 camps, and encouraged to seek non-stipendiary ministry. The 2 camps are the traditional Church of England, in which he holds a non-stipendiary role, and a Charismatic church that probably plays close to the opposite edge of what I would see as biblical Christianity.

So we had a discussion, both with the candidates and afterward about worship forms, as one might expect, since some churches in the benefice have a distinctly Anglo-Catholic inclination (jokes about smoking handbags were made - google the word thurible) while the Chapel gently pretends to be Charismatic (or at least, some of us would like it to be, rather than like a smallish Baptist church). Some present didn't care to cover their distain for things evangelical (the lip-curling was almost amusing) and quite a few people didn't have the background to understand what speaking in tongues, prophesy and words of knowledge were. Us 'charismatics' were outnumbered, so of course stayed polite. We had some generally interesting discussions, but I mustn't say more than that.

The tricky part - the bit with tension - is the great divide in practice that exists over worship and interaction with God. That's obvious. But where it gets messy is that different bits get tolerated as seen to be a bit wrong, but it *feels like* they are allowed to continue as "they are important to some people, so we can't just shut them down". And that works in both directions. None of us are sitting down and saying "why are you incensed by incense?" and no-one really says "how can you possibly claim God would speak to you about me?". Some DO stand in both camps in good conscience (since I know he'll be reading this ;-) but my impression was one of grudging tolerance for the differing.

Now I don't need my ducks in a line, but I also need a clean heart and clear conscience. Fudging only makes me feel a bit dirty in a bad way, rather than bringing faith and hope. Maybe I'm un-sophisticated in my approach to faith, but while I can appreciate a nuanced approach to understanding and perspective, in the end, truth IS an absolute, and where our opinions vary then we need to shift our position, rather than accepting that we can believe what we want because we have a particular training/upbringing/background/preference.

So the tensions.

It must be darn hard for someone in the position of that particular bishop to walk well through things. There IS a very clear edge in his attitude, and that is intolerance of the things we believe to be right and have fought for will not be tolerated. But otherwise he's got to be seen to be fair to all, regardless of whether he is able to personally embrace them or not.

So over the ministry. I'm torn, a little, because there's a side that says "let's put down roots, throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the work here and get really dirty in the Anglican church in order to move things forward". This is tempered by a very strong sense that doing so would be giving in to the weak, shameful and self-gratifying side of life, and I'd end up a pile of tasteless white powder, fit for nothing.

And there is a very strong sense of connection back to the community church.

Something I've noticed in other people here that have had to leave a country they loved is that they would really love to go back, and while they won't fight God's will for them, they do find their hearts and appreciation are somewhere else. I've worked really hard not to pedestal our old church, but I know a part of my my heart and my family are there, and there's something in me that says "just another year, then you'll have done what you were called to do. Just stick it out a bit longer and you can return".

And that's dangerous.

What happens when your homesickness overcomes your desire for obedience? How about when you're disappointed and told you can never go back? I see the need to throw myself whole-heartedly at what I'm called to do, but there's a side that really doesn't want to let go of the place of wholeness, and purity, and righteousness and cleanliness and love. And no, it wasn't all those things, all the time - and it certainly might have seemed different if we'd been closer to the top of the slippery pole - but it still was those things much of the time, for us.

1 comment:

  1. The Catholic and the Charismatic share something profound - an expectation that worship is a supernatural encounter with God.


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