This follows on from my post a couple of days ago about not belonging to Christian sub-groups. If you missed that you might find it helpful to go here first.
We have had a lot of discussion over the last few years about packaging. Where was your shirt made? What is it made of? How many calories are there in it and will it contain anything hypo-allergenic. My shirt contains a single nut but let's not go there.
In a world where everything is labelled (cue the movie-trailer voice) one man refuses to put his story on the packaging.
You see as I grew into this whole Jesus-following, truth-seeking business I discovered that people, knowing the church which had brought me to discover shavings of mustard seed in the first place and my journey through training, would ask questions. Are you an evangelical? Are you a conservative evangelical? Are you a charismatic? Are you sound? Are you thoroughly biblical? Do you denounce liberalism and all its ways?
The answers to these have changed over the years and have all, at one time or another, been yes, no and not sure.
I was talking to a Bishop I know on Monday. The bishops of Bath and Wells visit all the clergy in their diocese during Lent over a three year period. Good work. Thanks. In reference to my evangelical credentials I was asked 'You tick all the boxes don't you?' Do I? Three days later I realise I avoided the question.
So part two of my plan for the last ten years of full-time ordained ministry, my second conclusion in my continuing journey of faith is this. I'm going to take the labels off my garments. Labels can be for other people. You watch me and if it helps to decide what I am called then call me it. I won't self-designate any more. It won't be that hard; I've virtually stopped anyway.
I recall my dislike of my school nickname of Willy. I could, with a concerted effort, have become incredibly unpopular by telling everyone who ever used it that I didn't like it and would like it changed, getting teacher support (as if, in those days) if I dared. It would have been like turning back a tsunami.
I am, from now on, seeking to express my conviction that Jesus is worth following, in the freshest words I can find for each person I meet. You may attach labels if you so wish. Hopefully not Willy.