Thursday, March 27, 2014

Is there a parachurch in the Gay Marriage Debate?

If you have been following the excitement generated by World Vision (USA)'s announcement that they would now hire those in same sex marriages and their almost immediate capitulation to evangelical protest I think you would see a good case study of the current dilemma facing the Western church.

What I found most striking was World Vision (USAS)'s belief that they could make such a change with being seen to take a side in the argument. Instead WVUSA thought this move was a,
"very narrow policy change" should be viewed by others as "symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity." He [the WVUSA president] even hopes it will inspire unity elsewhere among Christians.
and that this was merely
solidifying its long-held philosophy as a parachurch organization: to defer to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor."
It is only after the hostile aggressive and immediate response from the evangelical church (USA) that the decision is then viewed as as taking a position on a biblical and theological issue.

What can we take from this. Firstly I think we need to realise unity has its limits.  Unity is a positive but if stretched too far we inevitably end up losing someone. Growing inclusivity will always exclude those whose exclusivity is being challenged. As John Crosby said of the Presbyterian Church USA,
"We have tried to create such a big tent trying to make everybody happy theologically. I fear the tent has collapsed without a center."
Inclusivity is not an absolute value for Christians. It is for our society and often for reasons that Christians can and should support. I want to live in a society that is more inclusive of different cultures and abilities. But I am also comfortable with exclusion. I exclude people all the time in order to maintain the integrity of the church. I exclude those who are divisive. I exclude those who will only be included if I pander to their every whim. I exclude those who pose a significant threat to the physical or spiritual well being of the church. If I didn't practice exclusion there soon wouldn't be anyone to include anyway.


Secondly, the idea that you can defer theology because you are focussed on doing good deeds is totally bogus. There is no "parachurch" that exists as a non partisan service provider to the church which can ignore the issues that are dividing churches. The guys who supply our toilet paper or pens may or may not be Christians and so I am not concerned to check their theological credential before I hand over the money for services provided. But those who are reaching the poor with the good news of Jesus in this other countries on my behalf need to be sharing historic orthodox Christianity, for the same reason I do not give money to the Mormons to support their efforts.

Let me know what you think :-)










2 comments:

  1. I think one point to add, though, is that the original statement from WV said that it wasn't a theological institution and didn't have a role in choosing between the views OF CHURCHES which were different. In the US (and elsewhere) there are churches that support, bless and conduct same-sex marriages and churches that don't. World Vision was communicating humility, I think, in saying it didn't have the expertise to exclude people whose own churches blessed their marriages.

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  2. Hi T, welcome to xenos! Thanks for you comment. Yes that is what they thought they were doing, but my point is that there are no "non-theological" Christian institutions. They may have been being sincerely humble but by accepting gay marriages they were excluding those who couldn't accept them. I knew Anglican in the UK who left the CofE over the issue of ordaining women, I think they were wrong (but then I think ordination is wrong) on the issue, but right to leave the organisation if they sincerely felt it was a betrayal of scripture. We will have the same issue in the BU if the BU doesn't respond to breaches of policy on this we will lose those who cannot accept that. Acceptance is a theological position, even if it is intended to be avoidance of making the decision.

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