taking a stand

30Jun09

My community, as I have blogged else where, seems to be going into some kind of melt down. I have sat on the edge, I am not sure whether I was on the outside edge looking in, or the inside edge looking out, either way things have not been great for me the last few years.

Recently, part of my community, that sees itself as some kind of authority, recently published an article. (the organisation is a publishing house for my community and the main route for news and official communications)

The article is all about protecting the tradition of our community and I find myself disagreeing with the article pretty much in its entirely,  in the closing section it says:

The appeal therefore is that any who wish to remain in association with the [community] should seriously ask these questions:

Am I honestly being [insert community name]?
in the things I sincerely believe
in the things that I do or allow in the name of Christ, and
in the fellowship in which I participate.

Do I accept the authority of God, through His word, over every aspect of my life and the life of the [community]?

Do I agree with the [community’s] understanding of the faith once for all delivered to the saints?

Do I have a sincere commitment to accepting fellowship in the circle of the apostles and building up the [community], or is my intention to reconstruct its beliefs and practices on a different model?

reading on, it turns out, I am being told I have to answer these questions to see if I am honourable, and earlier in the article it outlines “issues and activities” that should not be allowed to happen, like, contemporary worship, singing from unapproved hymn books, going to or being part of another denomination’s activities, focusing on the new and novel, rather than holding fast to the traditions.

WHAT? you cannot be serious?

Oh yes, its very serious.

Obviously there has been huge debate within the community (which, incidentally runs an ‘each church is autonomous model’). When I say huge debate, I mean, everyone in these debates has polarised to one extreme or the other, and then cannot refrain from telling the other side they are wrong.

did I mention the bitterness?

So, as the article says, I guess I should break association with my community, or it will be done, by them, to me.

I am left stunned by the whole thing, although it is helping to crystallise  many of the concerns and worries I have had for some time. And, as I try to ask those questions, and all the others in the article, I cannot really bring myself to ask them, let alone answer them.

I simply cannot

It would take up too much of my life

It would leave no space for taking a stand for something like this:

To love God and to love people

To stand for Justice and mercy

To walk humbly

To be part of the redemption for this broken world

sounds a lot like Micah 6:8 really

Just for the record though…

I will continue to associate with Christians other than from my denomination, and I will continue to think of these as my brothers and sisters, I will share bread and wine with them if and when the occasion arises, I will continue to read books published by other Christian publishing companies, I will sing contemporary worship songs in a language I understand, I will continue not to judge on the basis of gender or sexuality, I will continue to maintain that for someone to make a commitment to following Jesus, they do not need to know all the answers.

BUT, above all,

I will continue to take a stand against injustice, I will continue to love God and do my best to love all people, I will try to be humble and I will, despite where I may end up, try to show God’s redemptive love for this broken world.

And, if this puts me outside my church, then so be it. I will be where God needs me to be.

All this is laid before him and has his spirit pouring through it, because without that I can do nothing.

Grace and peace

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10 Responses to “taking a stand”

  1. 1 misspeltyouth

    It is amazing to think that we are a family, and yet we operate more like a business. I wonder what the bottom line is? Numbers? Attendance?

    I think you hit the nail on the head. And those last paragraphs (from ‘Just for the record’ onwards) sound like the beginnings of a missional statement of faith to me.

  2. 2 A

    It makes me weep!

    They might as well have sent a letter around saying:

    “put your hand up if you want to split not just the community but also many of the churches within it in two or more factions”

    Sad times

    Grace, Peace & Love to you.

  3. 3 L

    You are so right.. love your missional statement.
    with you in prayer and as many deeds as I can manage

  4. Sounds tragic, praying for you as I read this that you find grace and way to respond or not, with integrity.

  5. 5 tobit

    thank you all so much for your comments, support and prayers, it means a lot. Jason, love what you say about responding or not. I have often said that when someone says something outrageous and no one stands up against it, then it feels like implicit agreement, I do need to be filled with grace and integrity (so might need to think through this belief a little more), so prayers for this, and for finding a way through are gratefully received.

    ps, wondering what setting I have ticked to make you all (apart from misspeltyouth) monsters!!!?

  6. Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance, but I cannot imagine a “community” that would limit your worship style, reading material, and Christian association and still hold they are Christlike in their stance. It sounds like they live in fear of anything that is not them, condemning all who are not in their image or likeness. I’ve been a Christian and a minister for more than 25 years, and I’m having problems placing the community you are referring to.

    But that is not important. What is important is you are seeing that to be a Christian means to be connected to more than your “tradition.” ALL who call upon the name of the LORD will be saved, not just those in your community. I’ve often preached, “There is only one true Church in this town; we just meet in different locations.” Christ Jesus is the only true Head of His Church, and wherever His Name is proclaimed and the fullness of His message is preached, then I am, in reality, a member of that one Body. My ministerial credentials may be of another organization, but I am still part of the one organism known as the Body and Bride of Christ.

    • 7 tobit

      thanks for your comments Jim, appreciate you stopping by. I think the fear thing is an issue and I like your view of the one church, one body – it is one I hold, although I more focused on the church being the people rather than a building where we meet.

    • 8 A

      Wow, +1 to that!!

      I wish my thoughts could be articulated in such a perceptive way. Thanks, this is where I’m at too.

      Cliff (Below) speak to tobit and he will give you my details, You’ll be more than welcome in our patch of the ‘autonomous community’, We love people who want to Folow Jesus instead of just saying they are Christians (see http://www.crazylovebook.com for context)

  7. The Church being the people and not the building is exactly my point. The “church” is anywhere an assembly of two or more believers gathers. I’ve never “gone to church.” Rather, I am part of the Church that gathers together. I pray you find a place that believes that and is not trying to get you to conform to their ways or take the highway.

  8. Hi Tobit

    I know exactly how you are feeling with the current tensions in our [sad] little community.

    I am fourth generation follower of Jesus Christ within this denomination and over the past 5 years our little group of [autonomous] believers has been further and further ostracised by the politics of the nameless and faceless men [women are not invited to take part in these secret meetings held at night at various locations].

    Because our [autonomous] meeting has decided to accept “others” who also wish to worship Jesus Christ with us, to sing songs with words and sentiments that we can understand and which actually speak to the heart [and a whole host of other petty reasons], our meeting has been “excommunicated” [though officially we have been told that they have only dis-associated from us] and as a result our numbers have dwindled from near 40 down to around 15.

    All the young people have left because they feel they cannot attend youth conferences and youth gatherings, etc around the country if they retain association with us.

    What are we to do?

    With only around 15 active members [in a desperate economic climate] it is very hard to collect enough money to even pay the rent on the small rooms we use to gather together as church.

    To disband completely appears to signal to the community that their censure has worked and we have been disabled.

    To continue seems pointless in many ways as it is impossible to grow new people for Jesus when they are constantly being warned to keep away from us.

    Do we stay… or do we go – that is the question… but why do the legalists always seem to win in the end?

    Puzzled?



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