Back before schisms and apostacies kicked in, the way that the Church dealt with challenging issues was to pull people together and Biblically, prayerfully and thoughtfully hammer things out. Of course sparks flew as sharp disagreement happened. However, those Councils produced moving creeds and thoughtful Theology helping the church to think carefully on issues such as the inclusion of Gentiles, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the identity of Christ.
We have been hit by a worldwide crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused the church to ask big questions including:
- How do you engage with Governments and Laws when they seem to be genuinely for your good but leave questions about a potential conflict between God’s Law and human law. This is easy when there is obvious agreement that God’s Law is being broken but what about when it is not so clear cut?
- What does it mean to gather? Is there a requirement to physically gather? What are the implications of technology for good or ill?
- How do we effectively pastor the flock when lockdown restrictions are in place?
- Can we interpret events as being “punishment from God”?
- Is it possible to share communion when not gathered in the same place?
- Is it possible to continue to exist as a church when you have been restricted from meeting?
We’ve had to face them and without the obvious forums being in place to help us think deeply and disagree graciously. There have of course been plenty of blog articles flying about -not least from this site and I think there have been some of us who have been trying to carve out space to think carefully and Biblically. However that still to my mind does not fulfil the brief.
So, I’m really encouraged and excited by an event happening next Monday (19th October). The other week I talked with Graham Nicholls of Affinity about the need for these conversations and Graham has come up trumps. It’s not an international ecumenical council but at very short notice, he has managed to pull together a brilliant group of people to talk about some of the issues as follows:
Each speaker will give a 15-minute presentation followed by 15 minutes of moderated online feedback and discussion.
Session 1 (9.30am to 11.00am)
1) Submission to the authorities: when to obey God rather than men (John Stevens, National Director, FIEC)
2) Evangelism and discipleship: gathering in person versus online church (Matthew Roberts, Minister, Trinity Church York)
3) A medical perspective (Peter Saunders, CEO, International Christian Medical and Dental Association)
Break (11.00am to 11.30am)
Session 2 (11.30am to 1.00pm)
4) Engaging with the science: weighing our own scientific and policy opinions (Michael Ots, Evangelist).
5) Political and legal engagement: why and how (Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy, Christian Concern)
6) Pastoral leadership through the crisis (Dave Gobbett, Lead Pastor, Highfields Church, Cardiff)
The speakers take a range of positions on the pandemic, government measures and church responses. So this is likely to generate a lot of thought and discussion. If you would like to attend the event, you can sign up here
Let’s hope that this isn’t the end of the conversation