Some very wise counsel yesterday reminded me that life is all about balance. Without the darkness, light tones on a canvas can’t pop. Without the cold, a piping hot cup of cocoa wouldn’t bring the same comfort. Without considering many viewpoints, we can’t ever come to an informed decision on our own.
Churches are beautiful places. I love York Minister, for example, the vastness and amplification of God’s glory. I love the heart of service the staff and volunteers have. My spine tingles when I remember the times I have shared communion there. My husband and I deliberately took midday communion in Chester Cathedral on our way to our Honeymoon in Wales. These things are meaningful, and lovely, and precious.
I don’t like the fact that the wealth of one of those places could raise many out of povery in an instant. I find it such a challenge to reconcile my love for the theatre with my discomfort around the pomp. These places raise my spirit, but do they raise the lowly?
I don’t pretend in my writing to have the answers. These conflicts and discrepancies between the church the Apostles set up and the Church we have now is so blatant to me I admit I have a hard time connecting to ‘The Establishment’ on anything but a selfish, awe inspired level. The minute I start to think about what fellowship means and what Jesus called for, my heart sinks.
But then, as my husband regularly challenges me, the church we have is what we have, and we are challenged to love it anyway.
Does that mean we can’t speak out about wrongs? Some might say yes, absolutely, The Church is beyond reproach. The Catholic Abuse scandal would show otherwise. Others might say no speak out, but quietly, and just to key people, quoting Matthew 18:18. I agree with this to a large extent, but some issues are bigger than just one person or just one section of church. There can be a sense we must keep the image of Church pure so we can welcome people in. I just can’t buy that. We can’t project an image which attracts people who then find it an unsafe place to be, that is the thin end of a wedge of Spiritual Abuse. We can’t say all are welcome, and then when they start to thrive and pursue callings, cut them down because they don’t fit the more niche requirements hidden in the smallprint. In any other walk of life it would be illegal to block someone’s promotion because of their sexuality or who they let sleep in their home overnight. Yet in some churches this is policy, and those of us who see this as counter to Christ’s love and inclusivity feel obliged to stand against it.
However. I return to balance. I freely confirm I am still part of a Church, and I try to serve it well. I care for the congregation, I love that it is growing a heart for community, I admire the hard work and tight leadership from the top. I also despair at some of the policies, decisions, experiences and flaws. Which is perfectly normal in any human establishment in my experience! We are all human, and this is human balance. If it was perfect, it would be Heaven.
So I stay within, and try to speak out, while also serving. I recognise my Church has some really wonderful qualities which keep me invested in it. This may seem to be an impossible tension and to some it is an untenable position. But how will we ever grow if we can’t wrestle with these issues? How can a church community, on a local, national or global level, become more like Jesus if some of the voices illuminating His teaching through different lenses are silenced? We end up with a Church in our own ideal, not a Kingdom one.
Would York Minister still be as awesome without the gold, the treasures and the robes? I think so. Would the Christian Music scene be enhanced by embracing non cishet artists? Undoubtedly. Can the Church take a little criticism with the hope it can learn from it? Jesus worked on that premise. I have no agenda for the impact of my writing. But I believe God has, and that is why I shall continue to do it. While endeavouring for a little more balance.
Peace be with you.