In our old staff team (2002/3) we were in the habit of reading a book together and discussing it. This never got really interesting because of a fear of conflict which meant nobody ever said anything unless it was certified bland at point of delivery. The last book we read was the awful Purpose Driven Life, a title in which I hated two of the three words with a deep and bitter hatred and as we read it I felt more justified in my bitterness. Christians should stop being driven. Now. Stop it.
Just as it was my turn to choose the next book the team broke up and I have waited two years for my go to come around. In that time two separate people who influence me from different extremes, one an Anglican Archdeacon and one a Baptist Minister, have both told me I must read Brian Mclaren. Furthermore a new found friend, fellow blogger finker, lists McLaren as a person he reads so that's good enough for me. And that is what we are doing, studying his book, 'A New Kind of Christian' (Jossey-Bass 2001).
I am optimistic. McLaren has set up the opportunity for me to risk talking about my faith, my God, my biblical understanding in a new and different way and I intend to. When I read his hero, Dan, say, '...I feel that I'm losing the whole framework for my faith... I'm supposed to be preaching the truth, but I'm not even sure what the truth is anymore ... I feel dishonest whenever I preach' I want to scream 'Yes!Yes!' It even causes me to use exclamation marks, not something I ever do lightly.
That is how I feel too. I am aware that discussing this in our team will be hard because if anything I have the problem worse than McLaren. No wonder he wrote his book as a fictional dialogue. I can't hide behind that.
So what am I thinking? I am in a place where I love the community that is the church and to some extent the ritual and habits that go with it. They provide me with markers for my life. I love the Bible and find it the greatest book ever written and am even happy to call it 'inspired by God' but I don't think I mean what others mean when they say that any more. I can use the Bible as authoritative but have begun to despise those who use it to beat people with their personal prejudices, reading them back into scripture. I don't think the Bible can be used to condemn gay sex, abortion or women's ministry anymore than it can be used to condone polygamy, slavery or banging children's heads against rocks. Most of the Bible, I now believe, is not history. I can describe it as inerrant but only with the most crude mangling of the truth of the meaning of that word. Still, crude mangling of word meanings has been the clear practice of the Christian church down the ages so why shouldn't I join in?
Where will this take me? I guess this is the time for me, or others, to decide if I should resign or not. And whilst emotionally I really don't care one way or the other, having invested 23 years of my life in full-time Christian ministry I'm really not sure what else I can do. So there is more immediate sacrifice for me (perversely) in not believing than in believing, or pretending to carry on believing. Which might be why I have soldiered on a bit longer than I should have done before confronting this thing.
I'd love to hope that I can come out of the other side of this as a new kind of Christian. Maybe I can.