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Scars of the wounded church

Wednesday, 22 May 2024  | John Kidson


Scars of the wounded church

John Kidson

 

I only sing in church when I'm moved to. Rarely is any song leader able to encourage me to move my tongue, heart or either foot. When one does – then wow! All four join, hopefully with the leader, in a cacophony of musical sound that I reckon fulfills the Psalmist's hopes and dreams. I believe the Psalmist was a wordsmith first and a musician second – so of course hymn lyrics must take precedence over tunes to move me.

Recently, an eighteenth-century hymn has really enlivened me. Its strident tune carries an eternal message from which I constantly draw confidence: I trust in, and am happy to sing about, i.e., praise, the Church's One Foundation. In spite of the world's scornful wonder, I am (we are) enabled: through toil and tribulation, and the tumult of the Church's war, while expecting the great consummation of peace for evermore.

Meanwhile, every branch of the Church needs to join together and contend with viewpoints that oppose her. Our culture has recently highlighted one of the Church's current failings: our mistreatment of the same-sex-attracted. In the rush to correct this pastoral blunder, some are calling for a rite to marry couples of the same gender. So far Archbishop Justin Welby's 'Comprehensive Anglicanism' allows blessings for same-sex couples, which is dismissed as neo-paganism by the North American primate Foley Beach.

We should note that, in the past, prayerful and robust discussion between the apostles sought, in the Acts 15 Council of Jerusalem, ‘what seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’ concerning some moral and ritual requirements (going all the way back to Noah) for the Gentiles to be accepted into the church. The apostles' final agreement (consensus) avoided a possible early doctrinal schism. Is a unifying decision too much to hope and pray for in today's theological dilemma? I am encouraged by the thoughts of a past Sydney Archbishop, the well-loved Harry Goodhew:

Division can consume our energies, keep us increasingly focused inward rather than outwards, and blind us to the immediacy and hazards of the intellectual challenges which endanger biblical faith commitment in our society. ... played out on a public stage for all to observe and ponder, will eventually leave us unheard, friendless and with emptying pews, since it denies our witness to the gospel of love. (cited in Stuart Piggin, Harry Goodhew, Morning Star Publishing, 2021, 240)

It seems that Peter and Paul's theological understanding drove their pastoral decision-making. Christians of most denominations, lay and clergy, have wrestled with our current dilemma; their hearts and very souls have agonised in searching for an answer. Harry Goodhew's wise words of warning are pertinent and should be observed, along with noting the fact that he actively argued for his own stance of not altering the currently held doctrine of the church. Division beckons; it seems we all need to 'hasten slowly' forwards.

And surely today both Welby and Beach, and attending followers, are similarly motivated. We need to tap into the Spirit-filled wisdom of the early apostles. Then a modern hymn writer may record our current dilemma and future worthy decision as we continue with our sisters and brothers 'in heaven to seek His face'.

 

John Kidson is a frequent contributor to Engage,Mail. He is a former youth worker and uni chaplain, and recently retired from parish ministry in Grafton Anglican diocese.

 

Image credit: AI Generated Couple Disagreement by Alana Jordan on Pixabay.


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