Jun 222010
 

In that amazing way that only seems to come through a sense of God at work by the Spirit, there was a consistent theme running through much of the activity and challenge on the recent trip to Geneva. (Although I suspect that the lecturers who organised the trip would like to claim that that was its intention all along). That theme can probably best be described by paraphrasing (my excuse for poorly translating) the main sermon point from the French service in the Cathedral St Pierre on the Sunday morning:

Unity does not mean uniformity; diversity does not mean division.

It seems to me that one of the main challenges the churches and denominations face, perhaps moreso in this time than any other, is to work with greater integrity and grace with one another. As the Christian faith suffers at the hands of an increasingly secularised society (and, indeed, an increasingly more apathetic society – perhaps the greater danger), the public perception of division and disagreement within the Church (upper-case ‘C’, no one denomination) can only hasten its marginalisation.

The answer, of course, does not lie in creating uniformity and stifling diversity. I can’t think of anything more dire than an army of Christian clones who all act the same and think the same. And indeed, does creation itself not argue against such an approach? How easy would it have been for God to create each person in His own likeness, in exactly the same way, over and over again? Yet that is not what we have. Instead, there is an enormous variety of gifts and talents, of creativity and uniqueness.

Our trip included a visit to the World Council of Churches and it was fascinating getting a first-hand account of what their aims were and the challenges they face. Here, perhaps more than anywhere, the reality of unity without uniformity and diversity without division ought to have been clearly seen. And yet, we still heard stories of disagreements, but also some interesting little hints of change, of long-standing barriers gradually being broken down and challenged.

Of course such changes take time and there will always be voices who oppose such cross-denomination activities. But we were reminded one evening that the Reformed church’s cry of ‘semper reformanda’ is so often mistranslated as ‘always reforming’. Rather its more correct understanding of ‘always in need of reform’ seems to be something that we need to grab hold of as relationships with others develops. It says that we don’t have all the answers or the correct way of doing things. And this, of course, is another cause of Christian ‘clones’ – a sense of having the correct answers and the right way of ‘doing’ church means that one never questions, but simply adopts.

Isaiah 53:6 tells us that we have all wandered off the path, like sheep. We may well all behave like sheep, but with the exception of Dolly, even sheep aren’t clones. Time to stop behaving as though we need to be.

  2 Responses to “Christian clones”

  1. Sounds like a fascinating visit, John. Lots to consider.
    Christian Clones are something I find dwell in my worst nightmares. All of us conforming to a given (by God, of course) set of creeds and confessions (should they be singular ??) It certainly wasn’t the early church model and, as you say, not the model from creation itself. And yet… Christ talks of us being one. And I know what you’ll say to me…. the rest of the qutation should be read too, (and you’re right) as the Father and I are one. If Trinity is the right model for God, then we have diversity in unity and your quote is quite right. On the other hand, there are almost always reasons for division too. Not all beliefs can be correct, and there is a need to be always in need of reform. I quite like that idea. An acknowledgement that we are pilgrims on a journey and that we need to learn from each other along the way. (I’m not talking of universalism here, by the way)
    Enough deep thinking fro one night. Have just vegetated in front of Argentina/Greece and thinking of joining the Slovenia supporters group…..

  2. Different is scary and obviously just CAN’T be right… so ‘we’ use the term ‘them’ or the word ‘other’ and start the process of dehumanising/ scapegoating.  If ‘they’ aren’t like ‘us’, might as well let ‘them’ know ‘they’ are wrong… and heck, why bother with a discussion – that’s only for intelligent people like ‘us’ – ‘we’ will just impose ‘our’ majority view – after all might is right… and if ‘we’ can clothe ‘our’ naked prejudice in robes of right-sounding righteousness, even better.
    ‘kingdom’ values – in the sense of desire for power and hierarchy… and not ‘kindom’ values – in the sense that we are all brothers and sisters diverse and wonderfully made in the image of One who created and loves us and calls us to the family table to eat, drink, share, love, be grace-filled people, and live abundantly….
    Although, on the subject of clones, I now have running through my head that scene from ‘The Life of Brian’ where he tells the crowd – ‘you’re all individuals – say it!’
    To which the crowd respond in unison, in a trance-like way… ‘yes, we are all individuals’… and a lone individual says: ‘I’m not’ 😉
     

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