Another week, another dispute on church twitter, this time about an advert for a position for a leader in a religious organisation stating a genuine occupational requirement for the occupant to be a man. Why? Because there will be people under the remit of the role who cannot take leadership from a woman because of their religious beliefs. More on that later …
I have seen a number of calls this week for unity. To pull together and present a united front. To stop disagreeing and show the world God’s love without qualification. What a beautiful concept.
My issue is this. When some of my fellow Christians present the loving, inclusive, all embracing God I know to the world as one of homophobia, white supremacy and sexism, I cannot stand in unity with them. When Donald Trump stands up and tells the world he stands up for the truths of the Bible, I cannot stand alongside him in unity. When institutional Churches stand with the status quo for fear of upsetting people instead of embracing change which would save so very many more, I cannot stand alongside them in unity.
Unity doesn’t just happen. It is either enforced through an authoritatian system or it is embraced through a collaborative, ongoing, challenging, probably neverending process. I will gladly stand in unity with a church community committed to wrestling with the knotty issues in grace and love with the same intent and intensity that Jacob wrestled with God. We have to do that wrestling openly too, and in many ways that are accesible to all stakeholders; I’ve been told social media is not the place, but I embrace the transparency. At least if we can show the wrestling is taking place we are demonstrating not everyone thinks God hates gays. I have learned so much through open wrestling on social media and I thank God for it.
But I won’t stand in unity with any organisation who eschews collaboration, who relies on layers of beurocracy and say so from a monarchical figure, who expects compliance, whatever personal beliefs are, even when voices within it are crying out, intellectually arguing, presenting compelling cases for why the status quo is damaging. Harmful. Wrong. And there are many.
So when advertising a position which must be for a man because some people within the organisation have interpreted the Bible as such, despite the majority view now discrediting that interpretation and human rights legislation stating that is not acceptable, I cannot stand in unity with that either.
Yes, how to move forward with these issues is something we have to wrestle with. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, too often it becomes adversarial rather than collaborative and that, please God, is the bit we need help with the most. Maybe it’s not where we discuss, but how, we must focus on the most?
The church and related/representative organisations should be leading society in compassion, social justice and championing human rights. Not lagging behind for fear of reprisals. Jesus didn’t come to keep the scales balanced, but to tip them in favour of the marginalised.
It is them I stand in unity with.
Peace be with you.