freedom of conscience / Paolo di Canio

A status update from former Alliance Party leader John Alderdice magically appeared in my Facebook feed last night saying that he was ‘appalled’ by the way Justice Minister and Presbyterian Church elder David Ford had been treated over his support of gay marriage. It was one of those public Facebook statuses that hang up in the air for all to see so I think it was for public consumption.

He also added:-

‘While elders and ministers who did not accept the clear, firm and historic position of the PCI on the ordination of women were accommodated, to the point where one has now been appointed Principal of Union Theological College, David has been hounded out of active eldership.’

I suppose that resonated with me more because  of who I’m married to than anything else.

I know that many elders and ministers in PCI, maybe some of you reading this don’t really agree with the official position of the PCI with regard to ordaining women, or if you don’t agree you might not be overly pushed about it and it certainly isn’t an issue of faith. There is freedom of conscience for those people to disagree and they most definitely won’t have their points of view investigated by the church authorities.

There is also room in the PCI for ministry students who disagree  ( whether strongly or mildly) with the PCI’s official line that women can be ordained as ministers or elders.  It is seen as a minor issue and people are free to be ordained even though they disagree with the official postion of the PCI.

Perhaps it’s a little like the recent Paolo di Canio appointment when objections where raised due to his alledged Fascist beliefs. Do those possibly Fascists beliefs matter when you are running a football club? The last couple of Sunderland victories have seemed to suggest that they don’t and lets face it, we all have our contradictions. 

Maybe it’s because David Ford (who is leader of the Alliance Party) has made his view publically known whereas if he had just held his views privately that would be OK. 

Yet I can think of examples of PCI ministers  in organizations like the Orange Order on TV over the years saying things  publically over and over again far removed from the teachings of Jesus. Where/are these men investigated by their Presbytery for their public position?

And if there has been a kerfuffle in the past  when a minister has said “I have difficulties of conscience with the ordination of women” and that has been reported widely in the local media you have to wonder if this minister will be the best choice for principle of the college that will be ordaining male and female PCI ministers?
If you are a woman thinking of applying for the PCI ministry but hear rumours that the principle of the college  might not personally agree with sharing the pulpit would that encourage you to apply? How would you feel?

The issue of gay marriage seems to have become a bit of battle ground that is being used to test if you’re out or if you are in, if you take God’s Word seriously or if you are really just a wolf in lambs clothing that needs to be routed out.
If I was to say that I think that a gay couple should have the right to get married would that meant that I am a bit dodgey and a 2nd rate Christian? The answer at the moment seems to be yes, you are a wishy washy liberal who probably believes all kind of dodginess. Maybe some people reading this think that now.

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hiding in the garden

towpath II

What is wrong? I’m naturally scared.
I’m naturally faint hearted.
I’m a natural hider.

I am scared and don’t know how I can cope.
I am afraid that I am not going to be strong enough to cope.
I want to control things as I’m not sure how I will cope if I don’t control things.
But I can’t control things.

I want everything at my own pace and on my terms.
I am wary of trusting you.
How do you trust?

Yet I don’t know what else I have got.
I resent that I might only trust because of lack of better options.
I don’t want to be lukewarm in my faith.

I want to know that this isn’t just a tribal story amongst tribal stories.
I want to love you for the right reasons.
I don’t want religion or to pretend.

church upon church

My faith is on unsteady ground at the moment, everything seems so unsure about it.  Things play into it and for the life of me I don’t see what makes Christianity ‘special’  sometimes. The flag protests this week played into that because here I am sitting in  an area with so many churches, church upon church where people like me have been encouraged for weeks, years, decades to worship God and yet what difference has it made to our society?  What difference do I make to the world?

We seem to specialize in wars over the way we do the catering in the church hall, like should we use the china plates or paper plates, or who gets to use what room, or in being ‘pastoral’ at the expense of never changing things around. So we have to bring people along with us slowly slowly, gently gently. Of course we do, but maybe we don’t? Maybe we just need to say, no, this is daft and there is no need for it any longer.

Anyway, I don’t know how it is we have so many church buildings and so much Christian in general yet we seem so lead footed and faith clumsy. What difference does this make to life, what makes us ‘special’?