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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I won't back down


In what has been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least I have received much support but also some criticism for continuing to speak up for the rights of Gay and Lesbian Christians.
Some of the criticism has been quite hurtful but I refuse to back down from writing and speaking on this issue. I will continue with my thesis and blogging because I think it is important to maintain a voice of social justice and to continue to define and redefine the extent of God's love and grace.
This blog is here to stay. I will not stop writing or speaking on issues that I believe are important. If anyone in NSW or further afield (with some notice) wishes me to speak at their church or gathering I would be happy to.
If you feel excluded by the church or have felt excluded and damaged in the past please email me confidentially. I am happy to support and encourage those who have felt discarded by the institutional church.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spong - Time for Debate is Over

At "Straight, Not Narrow" I came across a post with an excerpt from recent comments by the former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, John Shelby Spong where he says that he is no longer prepared to debate the age-old arguments with conservative Christians about homosexuality.

Here are the excerpted comments:

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement. I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is “high-sounding, pious rhetoric.” The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves. I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn’t. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to “Roll on over or we’ll roll on over you!” Time waits for no one.

There is much, much more posted on the blog A piece of my mind.

No Junk, Just Jesus


I came across a great site for GLBT Christians primarily but also straight allies called "No Junk Just Jesus".


It has a link to a free workbook for GLBT Christians who feel rejected by the Church and/or God. It also has a link to a pamphlet to encourage GLBT people to consider why Jesus loves them.


A lot of time and effort has gone into explaining that God's love and inclusiveness is so much bigger than the wider church sometimes makes out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What if churches closed?

This is question that has been asked before and I realize that there are a number of ways in which the answer can go but I am asking it in terms of reflecting on the impact of the church on a local community.

What would happen if your church closed its doors and stopped meeting on a Sunday and closed down all of its activities. Would anyone notice or be affected apart from the people who attend each week?

I realize that I am stuck on a tangent for the moment and I am trying to go out of my way to induce a deep sense of guilt but I am simply asking us to reflect on why we go to church. If we go to sing nice songs, to feel good, to hear an encouraging talk and to catch up with a particular social group then this needs to be acknowledged. These are not bad things but they need to be named and then the church can go on be an encouraging social club for a narrow demographic.

If this sounds uncomfortable or offensive then ask what further impact your local church makes to the local community and the wider world. I am reflecting on my own experiences in the church and, to be honest, if some churches closed no-one would notice and only the paid staff would have long-term concerns.

The next question that arises is "What do we do to ensure that the Church is an active agent of change and hope in society?"

Glocal Christianity

This is a plug for one of my favourite blogs "Glocal Christianity".

Matt Stone is a follower of Christ but seeks to interact with a wide-range of traditions.

He recently reflected on his blogs over time on the subject of yoga which is something that frightens the average, spiritually insecure, Christian.

He also has a magnificent collection of Christian Art.

This is a wonderful blog but Matt is also a top guy who seeks to live out his faith and beliefs authentically and offers me continual food for thought.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I don't get it!

Ok. In case you haven't noticed a trend I am frustrated with the evangelical church. I am tired of words, words, words from pulpits and study groups with little impact on the local community. I am cynical and jaded and I am happy to own these feelings but I still have to ask - what the heck is/was the "Jesus - All About Life" campaign about?

I drive a taxi and I have a lot of conversations about spirituality and no-one outside of the local churches seems to have heard about this campaign or have had a meaningful conversation with a Christian or even know what it is supposed to mean. It is yet another example of Christians pouring money into a programme when I think the problem is that, honestly, Christians don't care about whether their non-Christian neighbours know about Jesus. The church doesn't need another program; it needs to ask people honestly why they don't give a stuff.

Muslims



























I have been doing proof-reading working for some Saudi Arabian Masters and PhD students and am having some really interesting chats about their home, culture and religion. I have given the issue of religion a lot of thought and I have realised that I can't do it. I can't tell them that their religious views are wrong and that if they don't "give their heart" to Jesus then they won't be spending eternity with God in heaven. I just don't believe that any more.

What also concerns me is that I don't think many Christians believe this deep down because, if they do, they aren't going very far out of their way to tell anyone. If Christians really believe that non-believers go to hell (whatever that is) then they don't seem to be very concerned. There are a large number of Saudi and Sudanese Muslims in Newcastle and they are not difficult to find. They are very friendly; I have had coffee and meals with a number of them now and, yet, I don't see the local Evangelicals going out of their way or making any effort at all to tell these people about their faith in Jesus.

In fact, I think much of the evangelical talk is simply pious rhetoric. All over Newcastle are lovely posters saying "Jesus. All about Life" but I don't see anyone sharing that message with any urgency.

I simply don't believe, any longer, that the Christian message is correct. I don't believe that only those who have made the evangelical commitment to Jesus will spend eternal life with God. I am not sure what heaven is but, whatever it might be, it's not a bigger version of an evangelical church.

Ask the average Christian how many people they REALLY share the gospel with. Ask the average Christian how many people they have personally "converted" or "led to the Lord" and you will find a lot of embarassed silence. There is a lot of talk in the church and little action. I, for one, want to live with integrity so I will love and support my Muslim friends and affirm their beliefs and devotion.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Seeking for the Light

I'm still here and people are still reading so I must be doing something right. Feel free to send comments or email me at lchatwin@gmail.com - I always enjoy conversations about spirituality but, right now, as I try and piece together the threads of my journey over recent times I value intelligent, sensitive input.

Anyhow, I am still a part of the Theoblogger which is a project of the excellent Homebrewed Christianity. Below are details of an excellent blog book tour coming soon.

You may wonder where I am on this journey and, to be honest, I don't know but as I said to one of my friends the other day, I've given up with church but God and I are still on speaking terms! We'll see where I end up.

Please take time to check the other bloggers.

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Philip Clayton and Harvey Cox both have new books out and they are taking them out on tour. One of the blog tour stops will be here, but as you can see below they will be making their rounds over the next month until they wrap things up in Montreal at the American Academy of Religion's annual meeting. There they will be joined by an illustrious panel including Eric Gregory, Bruce Sanguin, Serene Jones, Frank Tupper, and Andrew Sung Park to share a 'Big Idea' for the future of the Church. These 'Big Ideas' will be video tapped and shared, so be on the look out for live footage from the last night of the tour.


Philip's new book is Transforming Christian Theology for Church & Society and Harvey's is The Future of Faith. Both are worth checking out at one of the many tour stops. If you can't wait you can listen to them interview each other. Enjoy the blogging!


Joseph Weethee , Jonathan Bartlett, The Church Geek, Jacob’s Cafe, Reverend Mommy, Steve Knight, Todd Littleton, Christina Accornero, John David Ryan, LeAnn Gunter Johns, Chase Andre, Matt Moorman, Gideon Addington, Ryan Dueck, Rachel Marszalek, Amy Moffitt, Josh Wallace, Jonathan Dodson, Stephen Barkley, Monty Galloway, Colin McEnroe, Tad DeLay, David Mullens, Kimberly Roth, Tripp Hudgins, Tripp Fuller, Greg Horton, Andrew Tatum, Drew Tatusko, Sam Andress, Susan Barnes, Jared Enyart, Jake Bouma, Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, Blake Huggins, Lance Green, Scott Lenger, Dan Rose, Thomas Turner, Les Chatwin, Joseph Carson, Brian Brandsmeier, J. D. Allen, Greg Bolt, Tim Snyder, Matthew L. Kelley, Carl McLendon, Carter McNeese, David R. Gillespie, Arthur Stewart, Tim Thompson, Joe Bumbulis, Bob Cornwall


This Tour is Sponsored by Transforming Theology DOT org!

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Business of Church

I'm a little concerned. It is now about 3 months since I gave up on attending church. The sky hasn't fallen in, my kids are happy and I am close to securing a better job so I can reduce the taxi driving to one shift a week. Having ceased attendance at a local church I have had time to reflect on the health and status of my spiritual journey and also to reflect on some of the reasons why I have left church.

I guess one of the biggest concerns is that the Church, whether we like it or not, big and small, needs to make money to function. This, in itself, is a fact of life; pastors need to be paid, utility payments need to be met, resources need to be purchased etc. The problem for me is that these things seem to become the main event. I am speaking from the position of the Baptist church in Australia. A Baptist pastor can rarely raise questions, take radical positions or defend causes unless those views are held by the majority of the local church or else that pastor could find themselves looking for a new job.

If a pastor is locked into a good superannuation scheme, has a car loan through the Baptist Union, maybe has their kids subsidised to attend the local Christian school and a nice house with rent paid by the church what incentive do they have to encourage the local congregation to be radical in their discipleship.

The issue of money and security goes much deeper than this. I have been in many, many churches and have observed people who are just like their neighbours except for one thing only - they attend church on a Sunday and maybe, if they are devout, a mid-week Bible study but their lives, to all intents and purposes, are just like their neighbours. I am not claiming to be any different because I had fallen into this humdrum, numbness of getting through the business of living.

How do we change this and, realistically, does anyone really care. I guess my ultimate question is - what is church for? If it simply a nice middle-class social club where parents can find safe friends for the children, families can meet like-minded people for bbqs and dinners and people can enjoy some nice songs and a soothing motivational talk on a Sunday morning then church needs to be recognised as this.

In Australia there is a campaign called "Jesus. All about Life". I drive a taxi, I meet with quite a few Muslim students from Saudi Arabia who I am doing proof-reading work for and I observe society generally and all I can see is that there are nice posters outside church buildings but, really, no-one cares too much.

I am not part of the evangelistic scene anymore because I am moving towards a more universalist perspective. I am trying not to sound bitter but I think that church needs to be named for what it is so people can make a choice between the local lawn bowls club, the local pub or church as the basis of their social network. If churches claim to be a part of the Kingdom of God then a lot of work needs to be done in terms of impacting society because, from what I can see, a lot of the language is simply pompous rhetoric.

A final thought that is nagging at me. What if the structures of the church, even those that emerged from the New Testament letters, were simply convenient power structures for people to maintain control. What if there is little point in maintaining paid pastoral positions and weekly gatherings in church buildings. What would happen if church buildings were sold and people met in homes to seek ways to positively influence their local communities and we stopped believing the lie that the person preaching has all the answers?