Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year?

Happy New Year everyone.  But will it be happy? It depends. For me there are several threats to that.

First, will the Anglican Church finally pass legislation authorising the consecration of women as bishops?  Well it has to really, if it is to be theologically consistent. How can you ordain women as priests and not bishops? It does not make theological or rational sense. Women should be - logically and consistently - consecrated bishops. But do I agree? I have to be honest. No. What gives us the right to act unilaterally without reference to the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches let alone anyone else? It is, to say the least, rather arrogant and presumptive no matter what the theological arguments. We have no right to make that decision without reference to the larger Church unless, of course, we think that we are the sole recipients and keepers of the truth.

Second, there is the ordination of practising homosexuals (and lesbians) which is inconsistent with biblical and historical revelation. This may well already be going on in some discrete way in the hope  of some kind of creeping acceptance. But it is still wrong - if 'practised' sexually - and as the 'gay' agenda gathers momentum, no doubt more and more pressure will be brought to bear.

Third, materialism in all it's various expresssions, is a real danger. People are very tied to the material - which they can see, touch etc and immdeiately benefit from - and view the spiritual as suspect or not 'real'. This attitude may be undermined as people are less able to afford things and have to make do and mend a bit more. But  nevertheless it is a mindset that will be difficult to grow out of having taking decades to form. So not huge changes here.

Fourth, the growth of Islam may be another factor although not necessarily because of conviction but rather because of the sheer volume of births and immigrations. This has been counterbalanced by immigration from other countries, not least from Poland etc. But nevertheless the birth rate of muslims is bigger than that of Christians in Britain and that will begin to tell over the next generatio or two.

Fifth, conservatism with a small 'c'. As people become more and more threatened and disenchanted with the numerous changes in society and church, they tend to either compromise or consolidate (See American sociogist Peter Berger), both of which are wrong. But that is what generally happens when you don't listen to the Spirit. That is, at present, the way of the Church, especially in Wales. I hope it will change. I hope the church will be brave and innovate. If innovation is wrong - i.e. church-planting, Fresh Expressions etc - then we must trus God to put us right. Consolidation and compromise is not working so why pursue them? Let's be brave and experiment. Let's try something and take the risk.

Notice I didn't say atheism. Why? Because although it is vociferous and vocal it is no more vital now than it has ever been. True it is more explicit than in previous centuries, but atheism is no more prevalent now than is the past. In latter times it hid itself under a veneer of superficial faith. People were baptized and went through the various religious hoops that society as a whole had to jump through, but what lay beneath? A form of non-confessing atheism. The only difference now is that it has the chance to be more honest than previous centuries. But it is no threat. In fact it's a blessing in disguise as it is the kind of test that the Church needs to challenge and mature it. I find, personally, that the atheists are only asking the questions that most good Christians have always asked - privately. Now they are out in the open we can address and discuss them. So we must be grateful to Hitchens et al for bringing them into the light.

There are other challenges too of course. Youth, the family, marriage and poverty. It's going to be an interesting year. Whether it is 'happy' or not depends on whether you believe, truly believe, in God. If you do you will know that whatever happens He is already there before us waiting for us to join Him in what He is already doing. Knowing that will - should - make us content.

Happy New Year everyone.

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