Planks and splinters
Over ten years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Egypt. It is a country I truly love and I have enjoyed several visits since. During that first visit, I visited a Coptic Church in southern Cairo that had seen a wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit and many nominal Christians truly converted into followers of Christ.
However, as I sat in a pew off to the left of the main aisle, I was fuming.
Iconography from floor to ceiling was giving me, the young and fervent evangelical, apoplexy. ‘How can You work amidst such sin?’ was my basic question to God that day as I steamed in both the Egyptian sun and my own indignation.
I have always remembered the Lord’s prompt and disarming response that welled up inside me.
‘How is their sin any worse than yours?’
That thought silenced me and turned my criticism into thanksgiving for the grace of God. I learnt the valuable lesson that God is far bigger than doctrine or church structures. He will pour out grace however, wherever and whenever He liked.
I hope I also learnt to bear with my brethren regardless of whether our theology agreed or not.
Reading Archbishop Rowan’s presidential address to the ACC this morning reminded me of those lessons.
"Because of the cross of Jesus and his resurrection, we may trust that God has acted to overcome our rebellion and more, to bring us into a renewed world. In that world, we live in gratitude to God and in a pervasive sense of involvement in and responsibility for each other. We acknowledge that we shall none of us be healed alone. We confess that each of us is made poor and sick by the poverty and sickness of our brothers and sisters. So we do not shrink, therefore, from fellow believers who have erred and reconstruct ourselves as a pure remnant; we admit that we are all now suffering."
I know that I struggle for an answer when the subject of homosexuality is raised. Despite my efforts to uncover a Biblical based argument for such relationships from those who support them, no-one has yet offered me a decent theology to which I can subscribe.
On the other hand, I know several gay Christians and in them I see the same love for Jesus Christ and desire to serve Him that motivates me. I know one who has rejected homosexual practice (much to his deep anguish and suffering) as sin. I know others who embrace it as part of who they are. I wish that I could change my mind and support the homosexual practice but so far, Iâ€™ve not been able to do so. What I will do is keep listening and trying to learnâ€¦ I owe my brothers and sisters at least that much. I must also see if I can find out more about this St. Andrewâ€™s Statement to which Archbishop Rowan referred.
Right now, the Anglican church is suffering because of this whole debate and argument. I know what I think to be right but I’m not stupid enough to think that I know which side really is the ‘poor and sick’ that Rowan talks about. I could be just as wrong as those who adopt an alternative view. What I do know is that we gain nothing by taking sides and slinging mud at each other from opposite river banks. The body of Christ needs to hold together and suffer together if that is what it takes.