I've been thinking again of something my step-dad once said a long time ago - it's a phrase/ question that haunts and informs the way I go about thinking when it comes to being Christian and reflecting on ministry:
'Why do I need to go to church to be told how crap I am?'
Now, some folks will be so busy gasping at the word 'crap' that they won't necessarily get to thinking about the actual question and its implications when it comes to general non-church perceptions of Christians/ Christianity/ the church.
Bob's [step-dad] question is again at the forefront of my mind with regard to the upcoming General Assembly and the galvanising of particular groups [on either side of the debate] within the kirk over the 'issue' of homosexuality. But the difficulty here is the 'issue' has moved from object to person in the shape of Scott Rennie. He has had the courage to openly state not only his orientation, but also his relationship status. I hope that not only is he strong enough to withstand the inevitable Christian hate-mail and general vitriol that will come his way, but that there will be glimmers of grace and love and care in the mail - and in person - for him. I also hope he has a very good support group so the experience doesn't utterly crush him - and that in the midst of all the craziness that he remembers that he is utterly loved by God... who witholds love from no-one.
The press are already circling like vultures, waiting for the church to rip itself apart. The media rarely portray those in the church who are moderate -
it doesn't sell papers, doesn't make for a handy sound-bite.
And many folks outwith the church think that Fred Phelps and his followers speak for all Christians.
'God hates fags'
'Fags die, God laughs'
It's the 'squeaky wheel' principle in action.
And yet... in a way, Phelps and his group demonstrate vividly what the taking of a certain biblical line to its logical [albeit extreme] conclusion looks like.
Judgement without grace....
And if I bang on about grace, then, in grace, and through sometimes very gritted teeth, I know I have to pray for these folks - and for all folks who limit God's love to some and not all.
I yearn for a time when the church that I love will be a place of welcome for all people;
a safe space;
a warm place;
a place where love conquers fear and hatred and where amazing grace abounds...
a little piece of heaven on earth...
and where wheels don't need oiled.