So the 15th Assembly has concluded, decisions have been made and the church has a new President and President-elect.
Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room though: after three decades of conversation and six years of formal consideration, the church has a position on same-gender marriage. Is everyone happy with that position? No. Is everyone happy with the process that facilitated the position? No.
But whether you are happy or not, indifferent or just wish we could turn the conversation to how we resolve grinding poverty, catastrophic environmental changes or the general decline of the faith in Australia, let’s maintain a level of dignity and decorum in our interactions as we absorb the decision and decide what it means for individual congregations.
I’ve seen some of the online “discourse” which has taken place around this issue in the aftermath of the Assembly’s decision, and while you factor in the general coarsening influence the Internet has on discussions, it is simply stunning to see people who apparently aspire to be Christ-like in their lives, engage in such brutal and venomous talk from the comfort of their keyboard.
Let’s also not shy away from the other elephant lurking behind the marriage elephant: how do we reconcile the Bible as an “authoritative text” with how we live our lives and treat others? Is it an authoritative text upon which we must slavishly live according to its teachings and commandments? Is it a book written for a specific time and people, and we must separate what were products of the time from what are eternal truths?
What criteria are we using to disregard some passages as of their time and others as applicable rules for 2018? What does it mean to read seemingly offensive texts as Christian scripture? Is the Bible an all-or-nothing proposition when it comes to how you live your life? If it isn’t, then how did you arrive at that decision; an informed theology or arbitrary discomfort at some of the stuff contained in the text?
Consider the Old Testament’s Test for an Unfaithful Wife: should today’s Christian men in Australia defer to Numbers 5:11–31 when they suspect their spouse of being unfaithful? In my view, no. Should we accept that what is outlined in that passage was a product of a deeply patriarchal society and disregard it as a practical commandment for resolving marital dysfunction? In my view, yes. Both stances are just my opinions and I welcome any letters willing to take me to task on this point.
In fact, I welcome all letters on this topic: how are you using the Bible to live your life and what does it mean in 2018 to uphold the gospel with all its complexity and controversy?