Tuesday, 2 January 2007

New, newer, newest!

The Rev'd Giles Fraser (pictured left) writes about current troubles in the Anglican Communion, and does so perceptively (here). As one who presumes to preach, I am ever mindful of the fact that I take my life into my hands (or perhaps my mouth) when ever I begin to speak those words "In the Name of the Father....." as if I have some authority.
Strangely I believe I have, indeed my Bishop told me as much when I was ordained as a priest...Take authority to preach. You may or may not agree that this gift is real, I happen to believe it is. I would even give some testimony to "feeling" it to be so; this may just be wishful thinking but it seems real enough to me.
Fraser's point is that we are ever tempted to make our own covenant and call it God's, and more specifically to take God's covenant and demand more of people than God demands. Fraser says:
..... Paul, explaining the new covenant, writes: “For you are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ.” Then comes that famous bit: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.26-29). The Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright — basically, Mr Covenant as far the present crisis is concerned — gets it spot on: “All those who believe in Jesus belong at the same table.”
This is a statement not of radical exclusion, but of radical inclusion. I have made this point on a number of occasions with those who make this rule and that rule: to my mind God is inviting people in not shutting people out. Fraser puts it more eloquently
Yet there are those for whom this new testament is not enough. They want a new new testament, creating a sub-division within the category “all those who believe in Jesus”. They want to write a new new testament that will distinguish first- and second-class Christians. And the sign of this unbiblical covenant is to be sound doctrine, as defined by a small coterie of conservative Evangelicals.
This is dangerous territory but it is, as I say, perceptive. Using profoundly religious language ...."all those who believe in Jesus", we then define what that means not according to God's magnanimity but according to our narrow understanding.
However we line up in current debates we need to be aware of the temptation to name our own narrow orthodoxy as God, and that I suggest is idolatry.

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