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Discerning truth is a corporate process

The Fall From Grace was painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512.

MODERATOR OF the Queensland Synod Rev Dr David Pitman believes that one of the most serious challenges facing the Uniting Church is a breakdown of relationships.

He sees this evidenced in a loss of trust and a widespread tendency for people to blame those with whom they disagree for the dilemma the church is in over the debate on sexuality and leadership.

Dr Pitman told a Leadership Forum in Brisbane in April that the ongoing debate over the authority and interpretation of scripture in relation to sexuality and leadership does not release anyone from the obligation to listen to what the Bible says about a range of other matters about attitudes and behaviour and the way people treat each other.

“We cannot address the issues that threaten to divide us in isolation from the biblical imperatives that call us to live and work together for the sake of the Kingdom,” he said.

Dr Pitman said he had witnessed some awful behaviour over the past 15 years, most of it directly linked in some way with the debate over sexuality and leadership, but that he had also witnessed similar behaviour in relation to a whole range of other matters.

“Nothing disappoints or saddens me more than to experience the capacity Christians have to treat each other so badly and then compound their appalling behaviour by excusing themselves and blaming others.

“Our responsibility in leadership is to confront bad behaviour when we see it and actively work to create and sustain communities within which people relate and communicate respectfully, recognising that others hold their convictions with the same passion and sincerity we do.”

Dr Pitman said he had been encouraged over the last six months by the quality of the conversations had with people from many different parts of the church and that the majority of people he had met were gracious and respectful.

Dr Pitman has a consistent passion for the unity of the church that Christ prayed for.

“It is a unity that transcends all our human differences, whether they are theological, cultural, social or political.
“This is not a unity created by uniformity. It is a unity that embraces diversity.”

Dr Pitman also questions the proposition that truth is more important than unity.

“The implications of this assertion are very serious, not least because it encourages intellectual and spiritual arrogance and makes significant dialogue impossible.

“More importantly it is the very argument that has been used to justify schism on many occasions. I cannot see how these two dimensions of our faith and life can be separated.”

Dr Pitman said that truth does not exist in a vacuum or isolation, but is experienced and discerned in community.

“No one of us can perfectly discern the truth. We discover it together as we journey together.

“God still has so much to teach us.”

More on The Fall From Grace:

The Fall From Grace was painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. On the left Adam, far from being seduced by Eve reaches out eagerly for the forbidden fruit. The reclining Eve reaches out towards the snake (with a woman’s body) to take the fruit from her hand.
The work was not without conflict between Michelangelo and Pope Julius II. At one stage a furious Julius threatened to throw Michelangelo from the scaffold. Michelangelo immediately took it down and refused to add gold leaf and make changes Julius was asking for.

Photo : The Fall From Grace was painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512.