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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

a voice of reason...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Malcolm Duncan (Faithworks) gives an intelligent and well reasoned perspective in the midst of the planned Evangelical Christian demonstrations concerning the governments 'Sexual Orientations Regulations'. He warns against what he calls 'virulent' and 'aggressive' behaviour, and reminds us that...

"Christians are called to follow Jesus’ example, and he says remarkably little about sexuality in scripture. Rather, he treats all people he comes across with love and acceptance, and does not refuse his service to anyone, even if he does not agree with their lifestyle"

Read about Duncan's statement in more detail 'here'.

hat tip... Maggi Dawn

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:45 AM


I totally agree.

I've been listening to the radio-coverage of the march this morning and the only thing that has stopped my heart from sinking irrevocably is that the marchers, though loud, are in the minority.

The argument used by marchers to demonstrate they are not bigotted is to say that they love the sinner but not the sin. Am I the only evangelical Christian who finds this problematic? "I love him, but I will not shelter him." It seems to me that some Christians are so addicted to wielding a two-edged sword that they even use it to split Love in two.

commented by Blogger Steve Lancaster, 10:46 AM  

There are, I hope, more positions available to choose from than the usual 2 opposing poles - "angry hateful evangelical" and whatever the "other side" is. Classic media polarisation and charicaturing.

That is of course if we buy into the way the media is increasingly using "evangelical" - as a catch all term for bigots, fundamentalists and any Christian speaking publicly with conviction on moral issues, who has something to say about someone else's lifestyle.

Unfortunately the link is not to Malcolm D's article but to someone's digest of it. I hope Malcolm's article says a lot more than the quote, otherwise it could easily be seen as simply mirroring one of the key values of our individualistic morally relative culture i.e. "we have no right to comment or pass judgement on someone else's choices".

The problem is that Jesus did have a lot to say about lifestyle, and he often didn't mince his words e.g. "go now and leave your life of sin" or "stop sinning or something worse will happen to you", but it is noteworthy that the first thing the person encountered was love and acceptance.

On the one hand, I'm tired of hearing Christians being seduced into this cultural value of "love means you don't challenge anyone" - maybe Malcolm Duncan has fallen into that trap - I'm not sure.

At the same time, I'm tired of the strident Christian voices which speak of truth, but without love or mercy or compassion.

I really pray there is some middle way - a way to bring "grace and truth" together like Jesus did, on this and all other issues we have to make up our minds about in our day.

commented by Anonymous Richard L, 10:18 PM  

Thanks for your commtents. I agree with you both actually. You can find the fukll statement at www.faithworks.info/pressreleases plus other information around the same issue. Yu can also see the open letter etc at www.malcolmduncan.typepad.com

Steve is right to highlight the clear inconsistency in the 'love the sinner hate the sin' approach. It smacks of over simplicity and carries a patronising tone which is simply inconsistent with a biblical ethic based on the life and example of Jesus.

However, Richard is right, and we make this point, to say that the choice is not an either or. There is a line which is that we maintain a distinctive Christian identity whilst engaging with the world. That identity means we are entitled to a view and a position on values, ethics and what is right and wrong. We do not have to abandon a thoroughly robust Christian apologetic to be loving.

However we must be careful to model Christ and not caricature him. He clearly did challenge behaviour - but he did so out of an unconditional commitment to love, serve and support others. This unconditionality is crucial and we must be careful to avoid arice bowl approach to others - we will help but only if you comply with our values and our choices. Whatever you call such an approach,it is not Christian.

It is my distinctive Christian ethos and my values and convictions that cause me to be unconditional in service. It is also those distinctives that give me a view of right and wrong, good choices and bad ones. Whilst I am free to express those, I must also recognise that I cannot force people to follow them. I must serve unconditionally and love extravagantly and be willing, in words and actions, to be faithful to Christ and his teachings. But I must also remember the importance of allowing God to work in another person's life and not assume that I am the Holy Spirit. He is the one who brings about true and lasting transformation - not me. I am, and the church for that matter, is a vehicle. Broken, cracked and tainted - yet a vehicle for grace and love and truth

I think some elements of the church are trying to either protect their power or reinvent Christendom. Whilst it might be hard for Christians to stomach, in legal and constitutional terms I do not have more rights than other human beings - nor do I deserve them. God's Kingdom will not be ushered into the UK through a legislative programme. We may and should voice concerns and debate the moral tone of our nation but we must not make the mistake of thinking that we can impose our view on others in this country. My Christian choices and distinctives mean that I am in the minority. I must shape my life, and the life of the church must be shaped by such moral choices and Christian distinctives, but we cannot demand that Britain behaves as a Christian nation when in fact the reality is that it has never been one.

Rather the power we have is God given to enable us to serve, to love and to speak out of a Christlike centre. Will we be marginalised? Yes. Will we be discriminated against? Yes. Will we be overlooked? Yes. But we should expect nothing less. Our Christian identity and ethos means we must maintain our unique allegiance to Christ and the world and take the consequences of those choices on the chin.

Our job is to love, to be Christ to others and then to speak the truth in love when asked and invited to do so.

Lastly, whilst I am an evangelical and my theology is shaped from that position, I think I should point out that Faithworks is a broad Christian movement which manages to celebrate a wide spectrum of Christian views. Our unity is forged from a sense of purpose in serving the excluded and the marginalised, loving and engaging in our communities and the world and being a positive witness in the world.

Hope that helps. Richard - take a look at what I have said and I hope you will see that we are singing from the same hymn sheet. I do not have to endorse someone's lifestyle to love and serve them. But, if I am to follow the example of Jesus, I must absolutely refuse to condemn anyone - just as Jesus did with the woman taken in adultery or the woman at the well. I must do what he did. Serve, welcome, dialogue, defend, love, serve and protect and listen. I must then refuse to condemn but be willing to challenge and speak truthfully in love.

After all love with conditions can't really be love, can it?

commented by Blogger Malcolm Duncan, 11:00 AM  

This is a really helpful conversation. Thanks to you all for taking time to add your thoughts here.

commented by Blogger Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:29 AM  

Malcolm - it's helpful to read your words here and in the original article posted on your blog too. Thanks for replying so fully and without the reactive tone of my comment (a common failing of mine) - I'd want to apologise if my comments had any of the stridency I said I'd want to distance myself from, esp as I had not seen your original statement.

I would agree in substance what what you've written. I have found in dealing with folks outside the church that it's love and compassion and friendship that opens doors - and not fake, professional love i.e. "I care about you because it's my job to otherwise I wouldn't give you the time of day" - but genuine love, which is a glimpse of the heart of Jesus for people.

I've found that if we really care for people, and show it in practice, it often does open a door to explore the deeper issues of life and morality and so on, but not usually right away!

Bottom line - I hope that whatever we thought about someone's lifestyle, that our encounter with them would have mirrored the love of Jesus to them and made them more human, not less, and that should they confront us with direct questions about their lifestyle which required a clear response (as Philip Yancey was in "What's So Amazing About Grace"), we would respond with the heaviness of heart that comes from knowing that real love means telling the truth about where we stand in full knowledge that our convictions will hurt them, but that to hurt them in that way brings us no pleasure whatsoever.


commented by Anonymous Richard L, 1:21 AM  

Thanks. Your comments didn't sound strident, just passionate, which is great! I think we have consensu breaking out of our dialogue - hurrah! A message and lesson for all involved in this debate I think.

Now onto other things, how do we work with people who are different full stop. Sexuality is just one question, what about serving people of other faith? Check it out - www.buildingabetterworld.typepad.com

commented by Blogger Malcolm Duncan, 10:20 AM  

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