Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Come as you are. . . and don't expect to be changed
Well, now there is something new. Since the earliest days of Christianity, the Church has been understood as a people set apart to a higher calling and this was not lost on ordination. Those whom the Church sets apart by Word and prayer to be pastors must be a people held to a higher standard (Read Timothy and Titus here). But no more. No more does service in the Church presume a higher calling or a set apart life. Now it is come as you are and remain as you are.
According to Archbishop Welby, the perception that the Church is homophobic and transphobic is harming our mission, especially to young people. We need to challenge this perception by reaching out to LGBT+ people with the good news of God’s love, modelling God’s welcome and care for all people. In other words, what is distinctively Christian is not holiness but the welcome of God for all people as they are and His care for them as they are.
The distinctive mark of Christianity is not simply the welcome of sinners but the fact that in this welcome comes the transforming power of the Gospel. We are met where we are but we are not left there. We are changed. We receive a new heart. We are clothed with righteousness. We are marked with Christ to belong to Him and to live as His own, to live under Him in His kingdom without end. We are not affirmed for the broken, empty, shell of a person we are because of sin but healed through forgiveness, filled with the Holy Spirit, and transformed into the holy and righteous person God has said we are. The consequence of this is that we cannot continue in sin and, because we have a new heart, we do not want to, either.
Of course, that does not fit with the current model -- one practiced even in some so-called Christian churches -- in which God made us as we are and this is good and does not need much more than some affirmation and the freedom to explore where it all leads us. The most situational of all situation ethics is that if we like who we are (gay, straight, queer, transgender, male, female, etc.) then all is good and if we want to change who we are, that is good, too. In any case, the Church cannot be allowed to do any more than cheer us on from the sidelines and offer us the (false) assurance that if we are good with is, so is God. And that, my friends, is about all that is left for the liberal Christianity (hardly more than ceremonial agnosticism) that is the C of E.