LGBT and the Christian story (Part 1) -On growing up evangelical and the damaging silence

The short term prompt for this post is Peter Oulds piece in Christianity today, in which the title reads ‘why evangelicals need a better story’ which you can read for yourself here , it is a response to the conversations from a variety of high profile publications from prominent christians who profess to identify as LGBT,  his published piece includes the lines:

And this is something the evangelical church simply fails to do time and time again. Even today with so many gay conservatives being open about their sexuality, it is incredibly hard to stand up and say ‘I’m gay’ in the middle of an evangelical church teaching traditional orthodox theology. There is still too much suspicion, too much assumption. There is the fear about how you’ll be received, whether you’ll still be able to do the ministries that you were involved in. It’s getting better in many places, but it’s still a problem and needs to be addressed. You see the problem in the way that the tragic suicide of Lizzie Lowe (which might have been avoided if the church in question had taught clearly from the front that being gay was not in and of itself sinful) is currently being weaponised by liberals as a tool to promote revisionist teaching.

This is the point. The reason why Vicky Beeching couldn’t continue her ministry wasn’t because she came out, it was because she came out and accompanied it with a particular theological position. When Beeching chooses a title like Undivided she is actually playing a very clever game, because revisionists want to so conflate orientation and activity that in society’s (and the church’s) inability to divide them we find ourselves defending both because there is no other possibility.

And I think he is right, I think a different story needs to be found within evangelicalism, one that is more expansive, and takes maybe more into account. That will feature in part 2 of this two part series. This first piece is on the silence of the story, or shall i say the silence of the LGBT position within the story, that I and i think a whole load of people experienced growing up evangelical in the 1970,80s and 90’s.

Yet in the interests of self disclosure, I have begun to reflect on my own personal journey in thinking, believing and opinionating about the issue of gender inclusion and the church, or more so, gender inclusion and the evangelical church.

Questions that I ask myself have been like – when did i hear anything about LGBT as a young christian?  Where did i get information? when did i think or realise even that people could be ‘gay’?

In terms of my story, it was a post brethren evangelical church that I grew up in. One in which had a relative position of strength, at the time, it had built its own building locally and was becoming influential locally. But growing up, conversations about gender inclusion and sexuality were fairly low down on the list of regular sermon topics, or youth group chat, and all a bright eyed teenager like myself really had the tools to deal with it was to ‘look at what the bible said’ . Even Steve Chalke in his ‘lessons in love’ videos which we watched in youth group,  didnt mention that Boys and Boys could be in a relationship. So, when dangerously right wing Ken Ham and his creationist brigade turned up, and talked about Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, and the literal reading of creation, i kind of wished i hadnt but, i kind of lapped it up. After all, it felt like, or i wasnt encouraged to, critically think about what was being said and the perspective being offered, at 15 I thought that being compliant with a perspective was what was required, what was needed to be accepted in the church. Only the compliant survived, or so I thought.

Teachers at school were bullied for being gay. I dont think i joined in at the time, i hope i didnt. I might even have thought that they were evil for being gay. forgive me.

In early 1994, a trip to see the film ‘Philadelphia’ and being moved to tears, even as a 15 year old caused me to think about gender, and relationships, and how this seems to be at odds with an evangelical faith that i knew of. Or at least scenes in it where the church  is represented by those who protest against someone, who may have life/death decisions to make. Whos side would i be on?

I have my A level English department to thank for pushing this further.

I had to read ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ by Jeanette Winterson, as one of the key texts in the A level course. It famously tells of the powerful story that was based on her own experiences of awakening sexuality, lesbian attraction and how this was met with the full fury of a ultra conservative Pentecostal church. Where deliverance and prayer was being enforced whilst the young Jeanette was being pinned down on a chair to receive healing and the removal of demons. It seemed like the worse crime in this story was of spiritual abuse, and childhood neglect.

These children have fallen fowl of their lusts’ – said the preacher to the girls (including Jeanette sitting in the pews)

These children are full of demons’ 

and as the girls protested verabally

Listen to Satans voice’  (Oranges are not the only fruit, 1991, p102)

Could I ask about this story in church, should I- did I – no. The stories stayed separate. Two competing messages were going through my head, the adherence to evangelical beliefs and a story that seemed to ignore, or not engage with homosexual identity, relationships and faith – and on the other hand a growing awakening of the oppression in society and in the church against those who professed to be. And brothers and sisters within a faith who caused damage to others. Call me naive, but that was what i was exposed to and culturally grew up in. Honestly, that two of my relatives were in a same-sex relationship actually was never said to me, just implied.

I could have dismissed the experiences of Jeanette this at the time written it off in class as something that representing the 1960’s or 1970’s. But, unaware to the real world of my A level english class, , there was something of a movement of spiritual renewal happening in churches in the UK at that time. And healing and demon possession removal was back in vogue with the various ‘blessings’ that were being caught, shared and distributed around. So, the practices of ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ were back in vogue. But we’re they coupled with a greater compassion? Ill get to that a bit later. What certainly wasnt happening was conversations about homosexuality and faith. For me they were happening, at least a little bit in school, in A level English. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

Though what i will say at this point was that conversations about same sex relationships were tentatively explored, though fairly quickly shut down at conference Q&A’s at Soul Survivor, the one i went to in 1996, and not much mention of it as a conversation at any of the youth meetings i ever went to at spring harvest, on 5 occasions as a teenager (again dont judge me) .

I might not be alone in some of this. That sense of growing up evangelical, I have talked about before, trying to cling on to it or find a way of leaving it that doesnt damage faith, what I hadnt necessarily thought about is how an evangelical upbringing, in the 1980’s/90’s provided little in the way of tools, discussions or conversations around human sexuality, and, as a teenager, I was picking up snippets from a whole host of directions, without the building blocks or frame work, or even culture to meaningfully work through these things. It was a subject of too much cloak and dagger. To complicated to try and establish a perspective, to easy to ignore. A subject given the silent treatment. Left for the young person to work it out.

An example of where I was was as follows. Between 1996-1997 I was a team leader of a team of 4 on the Oasis Frontline teams, and sent to the north east, Hartlepool, to work in a team of four in a church doing childrens and youthwork for a year, if anyone wants to know with what i did with 2 years savings from retail work, thats what i did, spent it all on a gap year scheme in the north east, anyway, part of the deal was to undergo training, and this occured above a christian bookshop, the now closed Bridge books and music. I guess this is where i also discovered a love for learning through reading, as many of the sale books ended up on my bookshelf. And, having lived through and now being in what I would have said was the back end then of the renewal movement, I was keen to read more into it, or even to learn of its originators and the theology behind it. So, one of the books I read at the time was ‘Power Healing’ by John Wimber.

Everyone sort of knew who John Wimber was at the time. And if i was to go into Christian Ministry, at this time, knowing about Healing and Renewal seemed to be not a bad way to spend a few quid and give it a read on my next long train journey home. Tell you the truth at the time, it did open my eyes. At the time, only 19, i was sort of impressed by use of the Bible, and the stories in the book, and felt that Wimber talked about something that wasnt really what had been happening in the UK, its as if the movement had shifted from its original intentions.

At the time I probably thought that this section in the piece was fair game. On demon oppression, the following was stated;

‘The presence of one of more of these symptoms indicates the possibility though not the necessity that the person is demonised; contorted physical reactions, addictions to drugs or alcohol, compulsions such as lust, pornography, homosexuality, masturbation, stealing,  murder, lying, suicide, eating disorders’ (Wimber, Power Healing, 1985, p136-137) 

In a way this backed up what I had seen in Oranges. So i didnt question it.

Also it backed up some of the talk about deliverance and the Holy Spirit that had been evoked in the previous 5 years in the UK. Spiritual renewal was back in vogue, and it stemmed with Wimber, and others via Vineyard. Nothing about this caused a reaction to me then. I was part of the evangelical bubble, and with limited  other conversations about homosexuality, this was still the only one in the show in town. Being Homosexual might/might not be a sign of demon possession. Being Homosexual meant that you were a project to try and deal with through deliverance. And as it was said by Wimber, and he was influencing David Pytches and others in Chorleywood (so says the forward to the book), then it stands to reason a bit that this is where some of the UK learning about renewal might have come from. Add this to the sense, that no one is actually going to read this stuff themselves in the evangelical world, just hear about it from others, and the great divergence even from what was written takes place. If Wimber says ‘may or may not’ but see deliverance of homosexuality as a demon possession thing, then what will they go with?

It is only as i re read Wimbers Power Healing last week, on the back of Vicky Beechings experience that I look at what Wimber wrote, and the influence of it, and him, that things make sense. In that bubble, I hadnt questioned this aspect of what Wimber had said at the time. I do now. Why couldnt I then – what was the teaching on homosexuality? Did anyone share or engage in one? In an evangelical bubble where homosexuality is a non conversation, the only conversation that seems to resonate is one of fear, continued ignorance and distance the evangelical community from the deemed impurity of anyone who might be considered homosexual. It all made sense, as did the stories of evangelical parents who kicked out their children as they ‘came out’.

As I said, this is me reading this back 20 odd years later, and recognising the non conversation growing up evangelical about homosexuality. Realising that Oranges was not an extreme case. Realising that permission was even in print to do this. Realising that a silent culture on a subject could allow for positions to foister without challenge, or alternative. And Wimber wasnt as far right about it as Ken Ham was he..? Wimber was, in the evangelical world an established leader, success was following him around.

In Gemma Dunnings excellent chapter ‘Integrity and Imago Dei’ in 4 Views on Pastoring LGBTQ Teenagers (2018), Gemma talks about how unprepared she was with doing ministry with young people in a variety of settings who had been excluded from communities because of profession of or being found to be LGBT, She found that in developing an awareness of informal education, and anti-oppressive practice, she was able to find a method, or at least a view of humanity that helped, as undoubtedly being in the presence of and with her local LGBT community to hear stories will do as well.

And that probably is a similar place to where I pick up the story, for myself. In the mid 2000’s. Talking about anti oppressive practice and equality within youthwork and theology degree course at ICC ( Now NTC, Glasgow). Discovering, because I had ignored, the issues that LGBT identifying young people were likely to experience in society, families and schools, and how youthwork practices could, should help, and create safe spaces for conversations. And not only that, thinking for the first time about how equality is a faith issue, and theology is for those who are oppressed.

This is only the part of this blog in which i have personally looked back at how homosexuality was the big non conversation in growing up evangelical. There was no conversation. LGBT was given the silent treatment within evangelical churches, families and culture, for at least towards those who didnt profess to be LGBT there was no conversation about it that would help create the possibility of a good story about it. The dominant voices were negative, cruel and damaging, and only had one version. One version that was powerfully communicated, one version in which compliance and power to it was rife.

I would like to think that a conversation on LGBT is not as silent in churches for young people today as it was for me 30 years ago. I would like to think so, and Gemmas book, would certainly be a help for anyone wanting to begin a conversation on it. Young people professing LGBT need community more than ever, as churches we have got to normalise 100% acceptance. The silent treatment is just not good enough.

This is part one, of two, the second to be published later in the week, this is a little of what was for me, the LGBT conversation and growing up evangelical. For the many young people in churches in the UK today, there needs to be a different story. One where the two cultures are not separate, and where the stories are more coherent. At least where there is conversation. We owe it to young people to offer spaces of conversation, of listening and place to learn, have question and consider a number of views on LGBT and the christian story. Silence and putting it off isnt going to help anyone.

References

Winterson, Jeanette, Oranges are not the Only Fruit, 1991

Wimber, John Power Healing, 1986

Gemmas resource, Pastoring LGBT teenagers can be purchased via this link: 4 Views on Pastoring LGBT teenagers

This is a powerful read too: http://www.unadulteratedlove.net/blog/2018/7/29/evidence-of-shockingly-prejudiced-attitudes-to-lgbti-people-in-the-church-of-england

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Trying not to lose personal faith in Ministry

I dont apologise for the questions this post might provoke. They are based upon the well meaning encouragement that has been directed my way at a few points over the last few years. The challenges in my current place of ministry are too numerous to mention, but they have led to its pending closure. However, generally in youth ministry, one of its benefits, and dangers is that its practitioners can have a strong sense of calling (Ord, 2012) and ongoing interwining of personal faith its practical outworking and also the ‘faith’ of the organisation, such as a church. Ordinarily that ‘faith’ is a key motivating factor (Ward, 1997). But what happens when things start to be challenging? difficult, damaging even? 

What i find strange is that over the last year or so, at least three people have said to me, when things have been particularly tough, in their eyes, a phrase, that has meant well, it has been;

“In all of whats going on, dont lose your faith”

or a similar one

“Try not to lose your faith”

There is no doubt that the people saying these things to me were well meaning. Some i know more personally than others, and so to a point I am not questioning the genuine nature of the sentiment. Writing about this subject, and writing at time when I have been involved for 3 years in a challenging ministry that is about to close, amongst other personal and professional challenges, in undoubtedly difficult. Because of the closing allignment of personal faith and professional vocation, then situations of professional challenge, could, can have a personal impact. And this clearly is noted in this statement. Full time ministry challenges, in some areas, lead to personal faith dilemmas.

But it is only when working within what might be considered one of the evangelical youth ministry organisations that the phrases of ‘not losing your faith’ have been uttered to me. And it is this that has caused me to reflect, on the phrase and its use.

  1. The first thing i reflect on, is that the phrase “try not to lose your faith” seems to be used at a time of suffering, of personal or even during a personal/professional challenge – ie when a persons vocation in ministry is under threat. Now call me an evangelical, or at least an evangelical that has read the Bible, but it does look like suffering is part and parcel of life, and ‘ministry’. It affected the church in Smyrna, Paul, and was mentioned in most of the letters, not to mention Jesus’ own suffering. There are countless examples in the Old testament too of those who suffer being given the specific attention of God, through it, from Naomi, to Moses, to Joseph, to Job. This isnt western Christian persecution syndrome being described, but the more Biblical reality is that suffering is an inevitability. The problem is that, as Kevin Vanhoozer suggests, Suffering doesnt make a great advertising slogan. Suffering as part of faith doesnt feature very much in the Moral Therapeutic Deism rife in western evangelical churches ( Christian Smith, 2005, Shepherd, 2016).  Yet it is Suffering that produces endurance and endurance hope – thats in the Bible. So – what is quite odd then, is that it seems like there is a trend in evangelical culture, that suffering and challenges might lead to a loss of faith. when the reality might be the opposite. It might strengthen it!  Yes it might cause deep anguish, prayerful reflection and a crying out of new purpose – but that isnt ‘losing faith’ – its being true in faith to God. (This isnt true for everyone, i realise, somethings are so damaging, the questions so raw, that faith is lost. I am aware.)
  2. On a similar point, but the opposite. But one that I wont experience in evangelical circles. Does the ‘dont lose your faith’  ever get said when things might be actually going well? . But of course, no one loses their faith when things go well do they. No they might, like Rob Bell, and others, get so successful, so busy, that they get burn out, and that then becomes a personal issue to deal with, but would anyone have the temerity to say to a success preacher, teacher, pastor, minister or youth minister, at the ‘height’ of when things might be going well ‘try not to lose your faith’  – it would seem ridiculous, wouldnt it. Faith is only feared to be lost, apparently when suffering is being endured. Not when things are thriving in a ministry. Because of course, that wouldnt happen would it. When someone is ‘so professionally successful’ that them actually having a crisis of faith at the same time is highly unlikely… – what is more likely is that it become significantly for other people to understand that a crisis of faith is happening ; “because your ministry is thriving” , behind the scenes.  Now i am in self-care, and accountability territory. And that is true, but so might a successful ministry not give someone the space to ask themselves the deep questions of ongoing meaning, of faith, destiny and purpose, because the successful activities of faith keep them at bay. No one would expect a crisis of faith during successful ministry, that would make it harder for others to deal with. During a period of suffering and challenge – oh yes. Those are the ‘dont lose your faith moments
  3. As I said I am speaking ‘in the middle’ of challenging situations. Not the first ones either, especially not in the world of christian ministry. It could easily be that other people might react differently. It would be easy to say that someone younger in the faith might react differently (and I have heard this said). What has been noted, that people have been quick to say ‘dont lose your faith’ – but to actually follow that up and do something to help has been less forthcoming. Its almost like giving someone an idea they hadnt thought of such as ‘dont run near the cliff’ and not take away their trainers and keep them on the low ground. Yes of course, that could just be the rebellious teenager speaking, – just doing the opposite to what someone says – but if in our pastoral or friendship moments to support others the question about their personal faith is questioned- shouldnt/couldnt we do more that just pronounce that they dont ‘lose it’?  As I said, I am convinced that it isnt a phrase said without genuine well meaning. But, it might become, in evangelical circles as cliched, as ‘Ill pray for you’.
  4. Because this has only been said in certain evangelical circles, does it imply that the evangelical tradition in youth ministry has a track record of not only losing youth ministers through professional ‘endings’ but also because they have ‘lost their evangelical faith’ – not their faith perhaps, but they have left questioning their once held faith, and found faith that doesnt fit the evangelical box – but from those within the box it might be seen to be ‘lost’. or worse – liberal. Or even worse – academic and critical. But if losing evangelical faith becomes the ‘norm’ within the practices of evangelical youth ministry – then theres good reason why pronouncing that ‘not losing faith’ has a vocalised norm about it within that culture. Its a fear, because its been seen before. Systems and cultures arent changed to prevent it happening again. No, its the individual that ‘loses their faith’. and maybe more.

So, that all being said.  Personal faith can take a pelting in a wide variety of situations, having it restored might need the support of those who have had similar experiences of losing evangelical faith, of falling off that denominational cliff edge, something i wrote on 6 months ago here: http://wp.me/p2Az40-Kz. Maybe in a way, it can be helpful to separate to a point the personal faith, with the practiced faith of an organisation, but that its difficult and dangerous ground. As there are times the two are intertwined. Often in Christian youthwork we pride ourselves with being persons who are able to bring the values of God and our organisations to life, through our actions with young people. So, seperating the personal from the professional is an unlikely challenge.

But in the times ‘when organisations go wrong’ because of their culture, their history, or even the policies that they have they need to stick to for internal or external reasons, then it may be easier from a personal faith point of view to make a kind of separation. If only to protect yourself. Which I am sure is what we do in ministry from time to time anyway. Understand it, and our own human frailty even in the ‘christian organisations’ – and not take things personally, not easy. no ministry, no christian life in general is. In another way, being true to a calling might not equate to needing to stay true to the faith position of a proponent of that calling. A calling might be for life, not just a three, four, or two year contract.

I think if have lost faith, what i have lost is faith in the practices of those who might make such pronouncements, and the organisations they represent, and dont back it up. Losing faith in evangelical youth ministry. Which isnt a shame, as this isnt something ive had so its not something i feel i have lost anyway.

Why the Billy Graham Rule was just a fake news distraction

Theres been a bit of controversy around this week, someone has discovered such a thing as the ‘Billy Graham Rule’. What the rule said was that a married man was not allowed to be in a private or public space with a female on their own that wasnt their wife. Now, its a bit of fake news really and distracted the conversation away from a series of other rules that have also dogged evangelical Christianity, which have gone under the radar somewhat. Image result for billy graham

For instance, have you heard of the ‘Rob Bell rule’ – what this means that whenever his name is mentioned there is a 5 second space in the conversation for a mournful look to be given, the ‘oh he used to be my evangelical hero’ type of glance.

There is also the ‘Tim Keller rule’ in which a white male is allowed to become defensive over their power being threatened, even feeling persecuted.

Theres the ‘Kevin Vanhoozer rule’ in which someone is allowed to suggest an idea in 1000 words, when probably 7 was all that was needed.

The Creflo Dollar rule‘ is where no one is allowed to only have one swimming pool in their mansion garden, at least three is minimum.

Theres the ‘Wayne Grudem rule’ – where only the men are allowed to drive their cars into the theological cul de sacs.

Then theres the ‘Mark Driscoll’ rule- its when you have to keep elastic on your shoes so that you are able to keep bouncing back to positions of church leadership.

In the UK, theres the Martin Saunders rule, Where not only every film, but book, building, mode of transport and plate of food has Jesus in it.

So, whilst the Billy Graham rule, has got all the headlines, its been merely a distraction to other rules that powerful evangelical church leaders and theologians all have that have been kept quiet this week about. When twitter would have gone ape had people realised. Go on, change the calendar.

Trying to survive after falling off the evangelical cliff

I grew up Evangelical. There I said it.

I actually went to a church called __________ Evangelical church. The label was pretty much die-cast into my being from a child. My parents had been to and then escaped brethren roots. So, I was evangelical in identity, but in a way, aside from a continual statement that it meant a ‘belief in the Bible’ it was difficult to pinpoint what actually being evangelical meant, as I was, as they say, ‘growing up evangelical’. I was part of its culture, from festivals, language, ceremonies, adherence and regularity of church going, bible reading, prayer and rites like baptism, this was my world growing up. Being part of church meant, and only meant being ‘evangelical’ traditions were to be followed, or others derided, being kind of right was important. But discussion about what couldn’t be right didn’t happen, it was just what other people thought, and they weren’t right. However.

Sociologically theres a few challenges the church, especially the evangelical one needs to consider. For, what it has a tendency of doing is using language as a powerful force to have the twin ability of on one hand talking down the faith/beliefs of another church, in the hope that this builds up and strengthens their own. Ive heard it often, like in small groups when someone says of another church in the town; ‘they dont really believe in the Virgin Birth at that church’, as one example. It reinforces a rightness within the group, a security, a group dynamic, and shuts down potential discussion of beliefs, in order that only one is deemed right. Ok this is a little extreme, but i hope you get the point. But leaving it accompanies with it the rejection of those claimed truths.

The tragedy with this is that people then within the tradition become less able to hold in tension a variety of theological opinions, or cope when questions about such held opinions are put to them, like for example stuff about the validity of Jonah, ethical dilemmas, leadership, sexuality to name just a few. Now, that’s not to say that these discussions arent had over social media, via articles and blogs, they are, but do they happen in the local church in open forums to discuss them? and with young people who might be asking the questions…

A few months ago I was working with a young person within a well known evangelical organisation across the UK, the young person was struggling, but was being supported by their church and others around them in quite a difficult pastoral situation. What was quite interesting was that the opinion in the prayer of the youth organisation was that the person needed to be prayed for so that (and i quote)  ‘they didnt lose their faith’ . I found this an odd thing at the time, and only now have begun to reflect on this. Because the person had in a way no intention of losing their faith, their ministry and calling – just that an evangelical organisation was not able to continue to facilitate it. So – what was communicated was more well intentioned that i am suggesting here, but there was something in the sentiment that leaving the ‘evangelical’ world of a ministry could mean losing their faith completely, and there were prayers that this wouldnt happen. What was implied by this was interesting. Can a person be rejected by the ‘evangelical’ tradition and not have to have a complete faith overhaul? or was something else implied…

Maybe leaving the evangelical arm of the church – might only result in a dramatic cliff jump to certain liberalised death splatter below… or does it…?  After all, from within it the dagger of liberalism get pointed at those from within whove now apparently turned ( Steve Chalke, Rob Bell to name but two)

In a conversation with a fellow youth worker recently, we discussed what it was like to fall off the evangelical cliff.

Or more to the point, to know what resources there are for maintaining faith when you think that you’re falling off it, what rungs there might be on the cliff face, or platforms half way down.

What it feels like at times to have different aspects of your life trying to gravitationally pull you back to the cliff and to the green grass at the top.

In a way the same resources are there for surviving in faith when falling off the cliff, as they are before. God is still God, but the safety of the box he might have been in has changed. And so, this still includes prayer, and ritual, and reading the bible from a different perspective, church feels different (but i am still there most weeks) but people who have been through the same will be friends. Its hard not to be bitter, really hard, actually it is so easy. The same other resources include reading theology, and philosophy, sociology and politics, as The Bible often demand not just a spiritual response, but is all of those other things as well, not to mention drama and literature. God is in all of these things. There can be many clinging on times though. Because theres a hurt that we were once connected emotionally and socially to the people of it.

As importantly, the key resource is that you are not alone, many others before have began to reflect on the evangelical culture of their faith and, not just especially now due to the perception of evangelicalism in 2016 as Trump voting & immigrant hating, but because of a number of other things.

The easiest thing also is for the evangelical world to label you, you successful cliff leaper who didnt lose their faith. You’re now a ‘liberal’ or a ‘socialist’ or ‘not as Biblical’ and the trick here is that is that it does that thing of earlier, maintains their own deemed strong position whilst negating your own, and any argument you put forward if you try to is discredited, being from the ‘fringe’. Or that your faith is in some way inferior. What is failed to see is that because of having to maintain faith outside the evangelical culture, faith might actually be stronger because it has gone broad, or deep.

I write this because the two different conversations or incidents recently highlight what has been a personal journey for me, and countless others. Maybe in my 20’s and 30’s I had to find an ‘owned’ faith ( as James Fowler would say)  or that faith in God continually is changing. For the more I delve deeper into theology, into knowledge, into different practices of rituals the more I deepen not just in knowledge of God but experience God communicating and worship him in challenging new ways, the simpleness of a complex God doesnt add up anymore. Discipleship involves learning and having to learn from different positions.

In a way what I would think I was now is being more evangelical than i was then, as this belief in the truth of the Bible means that this includes acts of Social justice, the dramatic acts of God communicating to his people, a belief in God who gives Human freedom, God that asks people to follow his way authentically, a Kingdom that is near, graspable and far, is now and also to be sought. An evangelical that acknowledges that knowledge of God might not actually be God, a graspable God might not be God in majesty at all. I still believe in a God that transforms societies and individuals, who Loves unconditionally and gives. Actually what I still believe looks like the creeds of old.  Falling off the evangelical cliff means shifting the how of the faith, but not necessarily losing the heart, soul and spirit of that faith, and searching continually for God who finds us on our search in the craziest of places.

Losing my evangelical faith, or faith in practices of evangelicalism is more accurate.

Regardless, Being a disciple from within or outside the evangelical borders involves as Vanhoozer suggests : ‘becoming christlike and doing more than learning lines, disciples must develop their characters, disciples must do more than go through the external motions of saints, they must also be sanctified, sanctification is ultimately Gods work, yet God works not simply ‘on’ but ‘with’ his saints’  (Vanhoozer, Faith, Speaking and Understanding, 2014)

Even having fallen off the evangelical cliff, christlike sanctified discipleship is a possibility as a response to Gods ongoing call and direction.
(Examples used with grateful permission)

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