Perhaps the deepest healing we need is to know that we belong, and that we are loved.
What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to be church? How can church and belonging become the image of God which we are created to be; indeed, what does it mean to be human? For me, these questions have coalesced in the controversy about the role of our sexuality in our relationship with God, and each other, a controversy which has occupied the church since before I was ordained. I offer on this page a number of reflections in this area. You will see that I have concluded that our differences over sexuality are symptoms of something far deeper.
Two of these articles are written recently (Sept-Oct 2022) and address the same topic. One is more didactic; the other is a more personal witness. They share some paragraphs in common.
There are four articles which lay out some of the thinking which leads to the two articles above.
Christ the King comes to Synod. This article describes the church at its best and worst, including the scapegoat mechanism which mars our life together, by reflecting upon a meeting of the SA Presbytery and Synod in 2018. It begins as my usual lectionary 'First Impressions' for the week, and moves into a description of some of the Synod meeting about half way through the article.
What just happened? My 2019 witness of a life shaking event at the last meeting of the Presbytery of South Australia, and an attempt to live in response to that experience. In this article, I say
For as long as I have been able to understand such things, I have seen a divide through the churches which nurtured me, and through the Uniting Church for whom I am a minister. It has variously been over the status of the bible, an emphasis on justice vs. an emphasis on evangelism, the degree to which women may hold authority on an equal footing to men, the inclusion of LGBTIQ folk, questions about whose race and culture is normative for the church and, now, in this latest cycle, who may marry whom.
But none of these issues have been the issue, not even the issue of biblical authority and interpretation, even though that has often been a central point of contention within other issues. All of these issues have simply been the current or most recent occasion for an argument, and for an anxiety, about something deeper.
I call this argument the tension between living under Babylon or living under Grace. It could called choosing between the Empire of Babylon and what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, which is the realm of grace as opposed to the slavery of Babylon. I will sketch out this tension in the next few pages and then unpack the notion of Babylon in more detail….
Not only have we been searching for grace, but underlying our cyclical Uniting Church arguments has been an attempt to guarantee grace. Our struggles with each other have been a search for the power and authority to know objectively— to know for sure— that "we are saved." We preach that "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God," (Eph 2:8) but our human frailty can never quite believe this, much less live with the reality that a gift does not have guarantees, but is… a grace we must trust! Grace flickers in and out of focus. We glimpse grace, and then fear that we will lose sight of it in all the noise and contradiction of the world. We glimpse grace and then fear God will withdraw it from us.
Because Seeking Healing – a personal witness uses the metaphor of the map, I have included two articles which also explore that metaphor as a way of looking at how we live.
Being Lost - A Reflection on the Persecution of Trans People Which map do we follow? What if the map is wrong?
Healing This article notes about our woundedness that "We can't go back, begin again, and lay down a different foundation of the self. We can only live with, and work around, the person we are, growing from there." Change, as I note in the lead articles, is very difficult for us.
Other related articles include
School Girls in which I seek to underline the humanity of those we seek to exclude.
The Theology of Scot Morrison A February 2022 which introduces the idea of the oldest religion in the world, and further outlines the place of crowds and scapegoats in our in-humanity.
Fathers, sons, sheep and goats Luke and Matthew in conversation about the nature of God and God's love, and the consequence of human behaviour. How will we respond to God? This thinking article informs the theology of both lead articles.
A Navigational Hint: Find the Back Button on your browser! Although there is a nice menu listing these articles on the right hand side of this page, it will mostly disappear when you go to the articles themselves. If I shift the articles to the same place it will break other things. So use the back button on your browser to get back here, or go to the Home Page which gives you a link back here.
Andrew Prior (October 2022)
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