Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reflections on the first night of theological training

Brother John, my Anglican personal tutor, is a delight and I am so looking forward to spending time with him.

In our lectures we began with Praxis, which I now understand to mean the ongoing ways we reach out to people. This of course is linked to mission which itself comes from the Latin "missio" - to send - and is the same term used of the Father sending the Son and the Spirit. We need to understand mission, then, as being rooted in the theology of the Trinity and being about the overflowing of God's nature and activity into the world.

This is encouraging because it doesn't stand or fall on what we do and Barth sees the whole process as beyond our comprehension. The church plays its part in mission, of course, but it is in God's hands. This discredits the standard one size fits all approach to mission - find the right formula and all will be well. Now we recognise that we do not necessarily initiate, but instead participate, looking for where God is already working and joining in.

O.K. that's the theory out of the way. Our lecturer uses the example of Rosa Parks and the bus boycot as an example of missionary engagement. Mission is about the coming of the Kingdom of God with its healing, justice and peace and I see this very much in stark relief in the context of our times with the issue of human sexuality so current in both Anglican and Lutheran churches just now.

Many will have noticed the contradiction between the restrictive portions of the recent House of Bishops’ statement and the closing point: “We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God’s children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ’s Church.” This is deeply inconsistent because lesbian and gay Christians are not full and equal participants in the life of Christ's church.

It is of fundamental importance that, as we continue to seek consensus in matters of human sexuality, we also be clear and outspoken in our shared commitment to establish and protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian persons, and to name and oppose at every turn any action or policy that marginalises them, excludes them, does violence to them, encourages violence toward them, or violates their dignity as children of God. Let's be clear: this is another Rosa Parks situation and it is about mission and praxis in that broad sense of how we reach out to people in the name of God.

It is my fear that as with slavery, apartheid in the 19th and 20th centuries, keeping women from being educated, voting and being ordained in the 20th and 21st century, the church will find itself on the wrong side of history, morality and truth unless we get this right.