But I would ask you to show respect and be considered in you responses... please!
I respect you as brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope you can do the same with me...
At the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland held last month, and following the deliberations and decisions of the Presbyteries of the church, the Kirk took the significant but limited step of affirming the traditional teaching of the church on matters of sexual relationship and marriage, while simultaneously allowing congregations who so decided, to depart from this ‘traditional’ position and (should they so wish) appoint or call Ministers or Deacons in Civil Partnerships (and possibly also in time, Same Sex Marriage).
Leaving aside the substantive issue, and also setting aside any concerns about the consistency or long-term sustainability of this ‘permissive’ or ‘contradictory’ position (depending on your view) I have a deeper concern.
I may be wrong (I may even be slightly paranoid!) but I think over these last few years as both this issue has come to the fore in the church and also my own (accepting and affirming) views have become more widely known, I have been quietly excluded from certain mailing lists, gatherings and meetings.
For example, there is a Church of Scotland Evangelical Network with whose aims I broadly agree and – had it been set up 10 or 15 years ago – I imagine I would have been invited to be involved at an early stage. Membership of the network is open to minsters, elders, members and adherents of the Church of Scotland, so should I join?
Well, I doubt I would be welcome as, according to its website, it was set up due to concern about the issue of Ministers etc in same-sex relationships.
And so, it seems, the mark of being an evangelical is our view on this single issue.
I wish this Network well; it includes many friends and I am hugely encouraged by the commitment of those involved to stay in the Church of Scotland even if they disagree with decisions that have been taken.
But I would still like to know why I am no longer to be described as an evangelical? It seems that it would come down only to my views on this single issue (and if I there are other reasons, I would really like to know!)
It would seem that I am in good company, with the likes of Roy Clements, Rob Bell, Tony Campolo, Brian MacLaren and Steve Chalke.
But who decided that this was the mark of being ‘evangelical’? And why?
I am genuinely puzzled, and (as you will guess) feel a little bereaved.
Recently, one clergy colleague who is gay spoke of the process of ‘coming out’. He went on to say that now he was challenged about another ‘coming out’… as an evangelical!
It may (or may not) surprise some of my evangelical sisters and brothers to know that (in the wake of some of my previous posts and blogs) I have been approached by a number of others who – for the moment- are keeping their heads below the parapets, but who personally take the more inclusive and affirming view that I do, while being afraid of losing their sense of ‘tribal’ identity and (more importantly) their many friends within the evangelical fellowship of the church.
And I reckon that if I were to name them (which of course I never will!) then the shock would be great indeed.
But why is this so?
I wish people would discuss these things before they excluded some of us who share their views on most of the fundamental matters of faith.
And I would quite like to feel free to choose my own descriptors rather than have arbitrary criteria imposed by others as to what constituted fair and proper use of such descriptors.