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A Letter I Never Sent To The Church


the magician
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Last Sunday, whilst driving up to speak / perform at a church in Manchester, I heard a radio interview with a representative from The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. He claimed that the Fellowship represented the true Anglican position on Holy Scripture i.e. that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God etc. (you know the story).

 

Well my philosophy has always been ‘each to their own.’ I believe wholeheartedly in the fullest expression of inclusivity so that, when faced with the narrow exclusivity of particular groups, I must always include them within my vision of the all-embracing love of God, even if they do not include me within theirs. Love is the cornerstone of genuine spirituality and love must always be our goal.

 

However love does not mean that we, liberals, have to be silent. Our vision of divine love is powerful good news – gospel – and needs to be proclaimed, not as a narrow evangelistic attempt at conversion, but as a sign of light, hope, grace for the many out there who have been hurt and disempowered by the hard line preachers of certainty and biblical literalism etc. So I am going to speak out. I am going to challenge our brothers and sisters of the Fellowship. Why? Because too often the loudest voices are negative. And I have something positive to say.

 

As I listened to the radio interview it became clear that while this new group is clearly not a 'single issue party,' it has already spoken out on the current 'hot potatoe' of homosexuality. And one Bishop support of the Fellowship was quoted as saying, “We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude people, but we want them to repent and be changed.”

 

So I guess that, along with the massive gay percentage of our population who need to 'repent and change,' are the divorced (like me), the heretical (like me), the law breakers (like me), those who believe un-Churchian doctrines (like me), the pagans who see ‘gods’ in nature (yep, ditto), the agnostics and rationalists (been there too) and the many non-church goers who've concluded that the divine is often better able to be glimpsed out there, far away from man-made religion (yes sir, me again).

 

And so the crumbling and ever increasingly irrelevant, yet dear, sweet and essentially inclusive C of E, slowly suffocates itself under the weight of more and more theological and moralistic baggage.

 

Come on folks. Where have all the Liberals gone? Where are those who still feel the Church of England has a genuinely inclusive and loving message? Where are all the grace-filled-voices? Surely this whole thing began (Christianity I mean, not Anglicanism) with a wandering radical who was so loved up in God-energy that he wanted to share it with everyone he met, to show them that this 'Kingdom of God' was within them. He never rejected folk like those listed above. No he loved them. His harsh words, ironically, were directed at those who thought they were in God's good books because they were 'theologically sound'.

 

I don't know how much of a Christian I am any more. I have recently been introduced to the Progressive Christian Network, which seems to be the closet expression of my own battered and tattered Christian faith. You see I do still love the message of the great JC. I know what a screwed up failure I've been, but that's why the Jesus story still works for me. After all, it’s about transfigured failure - transfigured sh*t! Whereas Christianity, when its all about rules and believing that bibles are literally God's Word simply makes me want to run a mile and go meet up with the wonderful doctrine-free Druids of Stonehenge. BUT the reason I don't go the whole way, and renounce my Christian Priesthood altogether, is that I still have a hope - a DREAM - a vision that we can re-claim the mystery, the magic, the grace, the wonder and the all embracing love of the original message before literalistic Churchianity made God so heavy, punishing and toxic.

 

Come on. One more time. Where have all the passionate liberals gone? For God's sake don't let the creeping narrow dogmatism steal the gift!

 

(Rev.) Mark Townsend

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Mark,

 

Send it. There may be those ready to hear it. If it is the truth, it will plant seeds or do its intended work, if not it will pass.

The mission of TCPC is 4 fold...

 

» To reach out to those for whom organized religion has proved ineffectual, irrelevant, or repressive, as well as to those who have given up on or are unacquainted with it.

 

» To uphold evangelism as an agent of justice and peace.

 

» To give a strong voice both in the churches and the public arena to the advocates of progressive Christianity .

 

» To support those who embrace the search, not certainty.

 

Your letter is not hateful but sincere and truthful and is in line with our mission statement. Good letter.

 

Joseph

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