Union

Here’s something I’ve been pondering…

I am a Baptist by conviction. My denomination isn’t perfect, but I feel a sense of belonging and I believe in core Baptist principles like the priesthood of all believers and baptism by immersion.

But imagine for a second that through reading and prayer, I came to the conclusion that God was calling me to baptise infants. Perhaps I met a couple who sincerely believed in infant baptism, who asked if I would baptise their child, and that led me on a journey to where I decided that I wanted to affirm and practice the baptism of infants.

Perhaps then, I discussed this with my elders, then my congregation (let’s go with Sunnybrook Baptist, since – I hope – it doesn’t exist), and they agreed with me.

Of course, an issue would be that we had now taken a stance that would be hard to argue as “Baptist”. Would we be the first Baptist church in history to embrace and teach infant baptism? Possibly. Almost certainly if we only considered New Zealand Baptists.

What then?

I guess there would be two possible paths.

First, we could – as gracefully and graciously as possible – inform the Baptist Union that through a sincere and thorough process, we’d moved outside of historic Baptist tradition. Attempting to keep relationships intact, we’d still have to own the fact that we’d embraced a position that wasn’t a Baptist one. Maybe we’d change our church’s name to Sunnybrook Community Church. Or maybe we’d look to join with a denomination who shared the theological position we’d recently come to. This would be a necessarily sad process, but it would also be one we’d make with integrity.

The other path is more complicated.

We could, I suppose, argue that our unity as a denomination is more important than what our church teaches about baptism. We could argue that instead of just one view of baptism that is acceptable to the whole Baptist movement, the Baptist Union should be wide enough to include different views on baptism. That there should be space for you to hold to your conviction about baptism and for me to hold to mine. Not to mention, the Christian Church has always grown and changed. Maybe baptism by immersion is no longer as essential as it used to be.

…Option one is sad and difficult, but it seems to me that it would be the path of integrity. If the above actually happened, I don’t think many pastors would opt for the second path. After all, it would render our union kind of meaningless, or at the very least pretty shallow. As well as that, most theologically trained pastors would know that if we wanted to make a compelling case for calling ourselves “Baptist” while at the same time embracing a position that has never been taken by Baptists historically, we’d have to come up with a more convincing argument than, “Can’t we all just get along?”

I think you could exchange the issue but the above imaginary story would play out the same. Maybe Sunnybrook Baptist decides that they love me as their pastor so much, that they want to do away with congregational governance and ordain me as their priest. Whatever.

If the above were to actually occur, I don’t think many Baptists would be convinced that Sunnybrook was still a legitimate Baptist church. I don’t think Sunnybrook would think of itself as a legitimate Baptist church.

…This weekend at the Baptist Gathering, delegates (of which I’m one) are going to be voting on whether to affirm two proposals:

 1. That Baptist pastors do not conduct same sex marriages.

 2. That Baptist property is not used for the holding of same sex marriage ceremonies.

As you can imagine, this is a fraught and emotional issue. I tried to acknowledge that when I wrote about same-sex marriage here. I still feel that way.

The NZ Baptist magazine has of course been full of opinions, but more than that, I have friends on both sides of this issue who feel strongly. If Strengths Finder 2.0 is right, then I have the strength of “harmony” (I like how they manage to turn the weakness of conflict-aversion into a strength), but either way I absolutely hate conflict like this. I hate the feeling of picking a side. I hate being lobbied either way, and I worry that I always give the impression that I agree with whoever I’m speaking to at the time, because I really do empathise with how this all makes people feel.

I’m keen to go into Baptist Assembly with an open mind. There are a lot of good questions on this one. I am really keen to listen.

But in saying all of that, as I’ve thought about the proposal and the reaction it’s generated, here’s the question that I can’t shake: how is this different than the imaginary situation about baptism?

My hunch is that there aren’t a great many of them, but I do believe the sincerity of pastors who’ve wrestled with this issue, and decided that they would like to conduct same-sex marriages. I would really want to stay friends with a pastor who had reached this conclusion. But I’d need a heck of a compelling argument to be convinced that they could continue to call themselves historically Baptist.

I’m not trying to be divisive, I’m just saying that historically they would be taking a position that adopts an interpretation of scripture unheard of for nearly 2000 years, let alone in NZ Baptist churches. As N.T. Wright says, “Jesus’s own stern denunciation of sexual immorality would certainly have carried, to his hearers, a clear implied rejection of all sexual behaviour outside heterosexual monogamy. This isn’t a matter of ‘private response to Scripture’ but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition.”

It may avoid conflict (which I’m a fan of!) to say, “You hold your conviction and I’ll hold mine,” but if that’s the default stance on issues like this one, then being a New Zealand Baptist becomes meaningless. All our unity means then is that we’re okay with being in a room together every now and then.

That’s why – while I want to listen and learn – I’ll almost certainly vote “yes” to this proposal, even if it makes me worry that I might be perceived as a fundamentalist. And hey, if you vote “no” I hope we can still be friends.

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32 thoughts on “Union

  1. I wonder if there needs to be some more delineation though between conducting wedding ceremonies for people who ascribe to the faith and those who don’t.

    I can understand the union saying that if we conduct gay wedding ceremonies for our members, we are upholding a view that is counter to scripture, etc.

    However, the church has (for a while now) conducted heterosexual wedding ceremonies (on baptist property, by baptist ministers) for couples who do not hold to the christian faith – these people are also actively breaking the commands of scripture in other ways.

    What separates the two?

    • This is a great question, and one thing I’m hopeful for is that this whole discussion can prompt more wrestling with questions like that one. (Sorry if that sounds cliche, but I genuinely mean it).

  2. Good post Rhett. Another interesting factor is that I think if Sunnybrook go with option one and leave the Baptist Union, they have to give up their buildings. I may be wrong on that but if they do have to, I’m sure that would prompt them to fight harder to stay within while doing their own thing.
    I don’t have any answers. I have friends on both sides too and harmony in my strengths 🙂

    • Thanks Robyn. Thanks for reminding me of the property thing – I had forgotten that. I still think path 1 is the path of integrity, and I suppose with the building scenario considered even more so!

    • The building issue is (if you are right) a really powerful one, especially as one could argue that Sunnybrook BC signed up (presumably) with an understanding that local congregations were not governed by some outside body… this would seem to be an example of two principles conflicting. Which is the more “Baptist”?

      • It’s definitely a complex one. If it were all up to me, I’d be tempted to grant a one-off exemption on the building thing for churches who voted to allow their pastors/buildings to marry same-sex couples. Maybe for a one-year period.

        But that’s probably pretty controversial. And thankfully it’s not up to me.

  3. Just to add some further meat to the chewing. I believe that the Baptist Union Constitution states

    “every church in membership with the Union shall have liberty to interpret and administer the laws of Christ and to govern its own affairs.”

    So… surely what the Assembly Council is bringing to the assembly goes counter to this.

    • Hi Barry – thanks for your comment. I see what you’re saying, but what that makes me thing is, why bring anything to assembly then? Why have an assembly council? Why have an Assembly?

      My take is that there is always a creative tension in our Union. And I’d be loathe to take the position that our autonomy trumps all – it’s just not a compelling or scriptural position to me, and I don’t think it’s how Baptists have historically behaved in my understanding.

  4. “But I’d need a heck of a compelling argument to be convinced that they could continue to call themselves historically Baptist.”
    Interesting wording there Rhett. Obviously we are where we are today because of those Baptists of history. Yet in fifty years the church will be who it is partly because of who we are. If we determine ourselves primarily on the basis of our human ancestors surely we lose the ability to be led by God for our own day and our ‘descendants’ inherit nothing from our own spirituality.
    I think being HISTORICALLY baptist means very little unless we live in the same historical context. My experience is that when people start to be historically x in Christianity ‘religion’ becomes the greater good. And that is for the good of no one.

    That said, I really value your bravery and willingness to try and work these things through so pubically. See you Thursday!

    • Thanks Hamish (Nelson Baptist Hamish, right? Or another one?) :-).

      Definitely our wrestling together in our context comes in to it. But so does church tradition (these people were led by the Spirit too, and that’s significant, I think), and most importantly, both of these sit below scripture.

      At least that’s my take.

  5. I’m not sure a comparison can be made between the issues of infant baptism and gay marriage, lol! I personally support infant baptism as valid and found Michael Green’s book on the subject very helpful. On this issue, I feel I can hold my belief in tension with belonging to a baptist church. It’s not an issue I’d get all uptight about. Gay marriage on the other hand is a bit different. No matter how I read Scripture, I can’t see anything that suggests God has changed His mind and deemed it ok! For that reason, I’d be most cheesed off if the Bapos (or any other group or denomination that calls itself ‘Christian’ decided it was ok (either overtly or by simply performing the ceremony). But that’s just me….,

    • Hi Fiona – the comparison I was trying to draw was how it might be perceived if an entire church who was part of the Baptist Union decided to begin to teach and practice something that no other Baptist churches have historically preached or practiced. I think that’s a bit different to what an individual in a Baptist church might hold to. I suppose there will always be tensions there, especially since we all come from such diverse denominational backgrounds now (though I’d love to have the conversation about why I hold to believer’s baptism!)

      …Bapos. I like that. 🙂

  6. Rhett
    Unfortunately a rather problematic comparison and not really valid
    Historically BUNZ has a statement of faith on the issue of Baptism which is in their constitution and is very clear. This – I think it would be fair to say- makes it an historic NZ Baptist position.
    On gay marriage there is not a word in our statement of faith and while you’ll find reference to it in places like the 1689 Confession of Faith, NZ Baptists have deliberately avoided such lengthy and excluding kinds of documents.
    On matters outside the very brief 6 statements the constitution says “Subject to its acceptance of the foregoing articles of faith every church within the membership of the union shall have liberty to interpret and administer the laws of Christ and to govern its own affairs.
    Pretty difficult to misunderstand the meaning of that I would have thought but happy to be proved wrong with an opinion of a QC or have it tested in a court of law

    Rob

    • Hi Rob, thanks for your thoughts. I may be wrong, but hasn’t Assembly already passed a motion saying pretty much the same thing about Civil Unions? If so, this isn’t really an out of the blue proposal but simply an “update” or sorts to that. I definitely acknowledge that these things are in – hopefully a healthy – tension with individual church governance. But I am cautious about falling on the side of radical individualism. I’d hate to think we see ourselves as free FROM one another in that way.

      • No, its never been mandatory and was only a suggestion in the church manual. This is a whole other level of action. It may have been affirmed – for the manual – without any debate at Assembly but I’m sure its never been debated or officially decided
        Rob

  7. Thanks for your thoughts here – I found the analogies helpful and clear. You could flip it the other way round as well??? say if you were a pastor of a church belonging to a union/denomination that’s historically believed that same-sex marriage is OK, but then your church became convinced from the scriptures that it’s not. it would be hard to continue to maintain that your church belonged in this union/denomination.

    when is this vote? Will pray for you guys that God would grant much wisdom, discernment and grace.

  8. Rhett, I think Rob’s point is important. The background to why this has become a particularly big issue this year is the letter from the Baptist Leader which talked about not just writing this policy, but removing the registration of any pastor or the affiliation of any congregation that disagreed with the policy.

    That’s the difference between this year’s discussion and the policy on civil unions. There was never any talk of the civil union policy trumping the discernment of the local congregation.

    There are two issues you join together in this post. One is the question of how foreign gay marriage is to the Baptist expression of Christianity, the other is, if we disagree on this issue, whether we can all hang out together.

    I’m not going to lay out a hermeneutic case for same-sex marriage, as you’ve covered that ground already. Though I would like to say I think you’re overstating the centrality of any doctrine on sexual practice – I don’t think many conservative theologians argue that matters of sexual conduct are in the same category as the Trinity, resurrection, etc.

    But this second issue is your main point, right? Can we hang out together if we think such different things about homosexuality and same-sex marriage?

    The Baptist Union of New Zealand, in continuity with its heritage, has always had a written constitution, being clear, and brief, about what it means to be Baptist. Infant baptism is expressly excluded. Nothing to do with marriage relationships is mentioned. The constitution explicitly says that local churches, as Rob points out, ‘shall have liberty to interpret and administer the laws of Christ and to govern its own affairs.’

    Here’s the entire Doctrine section:

    Doctrinal Basis
    5. The doctrinal basis of the Union shall be the Articles of Faith set forth in the First Schedule to the Baptist Union Incorporation Act 1923 as follows:
    a) The inspiration of the Bible and its authority in all matters of faith and practice;
    b) The true humanity and deity of the Lord Jesus Christ;
    c) The atonement by our Lord on the cross for the sin of the world;
    d) Salvation by faith in Christ alone;
    e) Membership in the Christian Church for the regenerate;
    f) The immersion of believers as the only scriptural form of baptism.
    Subject to its acceptance of the foregoing articles of Faith every church in membership with the Union shall have liberty to interpret and administer the laws of Christ and to govern its own affairs.

    As Brenda Rockell wrote in her letter to the Baptist Newspaper, churches who in good conscience affirm gay marriage don’t want to leave the Union. They still subscribe to every letter of the constitution and want to remain in fellowship with other Baptist churches. It seems the Union wants to leave them.

    For what seems like the first time in our history, the leadership was seeking (they have postponed this part of the decision for a year, but haven’t at all ruled out continuing down this path) to make a new thing a compulsory part of orthodoxy, up there with the divinity of Christ – and it is something that many Christians are wrestling hard with.

    New Zealand Baptist churches right now agree to disagree on the following important things:
    – whether women can preach (or perhaps, whether God gifts women as preachers)
    – whether unbaptised people can take communion
    – whether someone in a de facto relationship can lead worship on a Sunday morning

    So far, we’ve all continued in the Baptist tradition of acknowledging that the local church is the best place to discern Christ’s will for a particular community. The issue of same-sex marriage is emotive, but not substantially different from these others. We need to keep playing nicely.

    • Hey Thalia, thanks for providing the doctrine section, that’s helpful. And thanks for updating me on the civil unions stuff.

      I suppose where I would differ is that I do see this as an issue which would be a divergence from 5a, “The inspiration of the Bible and its authority in all matters of faith and practice.”

      The biblical interpretation that would have to be embraced in order to embrace same-sex marriage would not be one amongst many, competing interpretations. It’d be one which is new in Church history and particularly Baptist history. That’s why, as I said in my post, I think a pretty compelling argument would need to be provided for it. When you have N.T. Wright (hardly a raging conservative) saying “this isn’t a matter of ‘private response to Scripture’ but of the uniform teaching of the whole Bible, of Jesus himself, and of the entire Christian tradition,” I think it’s hard to argue that to perform a same-sex marriage is to also embrace the authority of the bible in all matters of faith and practice.

      I thought Brenda’s use of the story of Peter’s vision of the sheet in Acts 10 was admirably direct: what’s being suggested is something completely new, in a way that arguably goes beyond the bible, or is at least a radical interpretation unknown for thousands of years.

      Because of that, at the risk of sounding offensive (forgive me if I do), when I’ve heard the argument framed as “we want to stay in fellowship, but the Union wants to leave us,” I’ve found it a little bit disingenuous. I don’t buy the narrative.

      Let me put it this way: if I ever come to the place that I no longer believe that salvation is by faith in Christ alone, I hope that I’ll be able to honestly step back and say, “I’ve gone beyond what it means to be a Baptist.”

      But, what instead if I was to say, “I still believe salvation is by faith in Christ alone, but I now see that Christ sometimes comes to people as the Buddha, and sometimes as Krishna, and sometimes as Richard Dawkins.” 🙂

      While it’s an exaggeration, I think to argue for performing same-sex marriages falls close to submitting to that statement of beliefs in the second way, rather than the first.

      I think there has to be some ownership that there is agitation going on here from within as well. So I do think to attempt to take the high road of “we only want to stay in fellowship despite our differences” is a little bit disingenuous.

      • Having said that, I’m genuine in my desire to listen and learn. I’m not closing my mind on this issue. If compelling arguments are provided, I want to hear them.

        I was saying to a friend this week that it’s funny how often pastors get bent out of shape about occasional badly behaved or rude people at AGM’s. I hope the whole thing will get conducted with respect and dignity and that we won’t be embarrassed if our congregants got to see the video. 🙂

      • Thanks, Rhett.

        Well, I disagree 🙂

        I think you are exaggerating the novelty of hermeneutic arguments for same-sex marriage. They are usually based on a not-very-revolutionary logic of a) homosexuality doesn’t actually come up much in Scripture b) faithful, monogamous same-sex relationships between adults of the kind that exist today did not exist in the worlds of any of the writers of Scripture – who knows what they would have written if they had?

        Well, that’s about homosexuality per se; arguments for supporting same-sex (state) marriage can be made even by those who think homosexuality is a sin. I think gossip, adultery and greed are sins but I don’t seek to make them unlawful.

        For a much more detailed examination of the Scriptural, evangelical basis for supporting same-sex relationships, you may like to see Australian Nigel Chapman’s paper, Gay Sex for Evangelicals, here: http://chapman.id.au/papers

        I appreciate your tone of civil conversation. I need to completely reject your suggestion that anyone arguing ‘the church is leaving us’ is being disingenuous. An Auckland Baptist church has for years paid for the ‘Gay and Christian’ ad that is in every edition of the Baptist newspaper (originally submitted to provide another voice alongside the regular ‘Gay and Unhappy’ ad that was running regularly). It is no secret that some Baptist churches have, in good conscience, with much theological firepower, supported same-sex relationships. But it is only now, for the first time in a century-and-a-half of Union that the leadership is seeking to impose uniformity of doctrine on a non-essential matter.

        I say non-essential really meaning that it isn’t in the Doctrine section of our own Constitution. You’ll never get anyone to agree that an issue they care passionately about is ‘non-essential’ or not a core doctrine, and I understand where NT Wright and you are coming from when you say it is connected to everything else. But as a serious Christian, everything I do, from not shaving my legs to buying fairtrade chocolate springs from my desire to follow Christ.

        If you decide to baptise infants, you’ll be heading away from something that makes Baptists distinctive, historically, and which is articulated in the constitution. If you buy unfairtrade coffee, think I should shave my legs, or even that I shouldn’t be allowed to preach because of my ovaries, well, I’ll think you’re wrong, but I won’t ask the union to take away your registration.

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  10. Thanks Rhett for your post, its really encouraging to hear what’s on your heart. As I go out into my community to work with people outside of the church, to visit those in prsion and those who live on the streets, you give me hope as someone who is representing my voice. What would be heartbreaking is to hear the Union take a position that goes against what Scitpure has always taught and what the Baptist have traditionally believed. Now as I am out there in the trenches I would feel blindsided by my leaders if they were to take a new position on this. Not only are we out there proclaiming the Gospel and defending it among the unchurched and seeing people come to faith, I need to know that my leaders in the Union have my back with the truth of Scripture. Anyway I will be praying for you, our leaders and the other delegates for wisdom as you come together for the Gathering.

    God Bless Rhett

  11. Gay Marriages are in violation to the Baptist Unions statement of convictions, a) The inspiration of the Bible and its authority in all matters of faith and practice;

    No one who takes the Bible as authoritative can come to the conclusion that gay marriage is acceptable christian conduct. It falls short of all definitions of Biblical marriage in Eph 5 and other passages. It also affirms homosexuality as a sin repeatedly (Roms 1). Those who use loose hermeneutics such as Chapman to justify gay marriage biblically are completely disengenous. To suggest that it was all a cultural conditioning and the antigay verses are a protest against the paganism that was often marked by homosexuality is just wrong. Idolatery is addressed elsewhere as well alongside sexual immorality. And to say that things were different back then is wrong too. 1st century Greaco Roman culture is one of the few other cultures that practiced so called same sex marriage (Emperor Nero for one). No one in 2000 years of church history has concluded that gay marriage is biblical. This is clearly a case of culture transforming our reading of the bible rather than the other way around.

    The gay marriage issue is the litmus test for determining a christians belief in the authority of scripture for our generation. Accepting it in order to preserve some sort of ‘unity’ is disengenuous as well. I know of several bible believing lay people, pastors, and even a congregation that are considering leaving the denomination if it shows itself to be spineless on this matter.

  12. Alan, now who is being disingenuous? We have come to a better understanding of Scripture and now believe that slavery is wrong. This went against over many centuries of church traditions of reading Scripture. Indeed abolishing slavery goes directly against the laws about how people should treat their slaves in Scripture (in several places not just one, and slavery was reaffirmed in the NT by Paul in his letter to the slave owner Philemon). By contrast same sex marriage, though going against centuries of cultural prohibition does not negate any clear rule in Scripture.

    I am not arguing for same sex marriage, I am unsure where I stand on that, but I am arguing that the issue is complex, part of a much larger conversation we have failed to have over the last century+ about marriage and sex, and it is time we stopped allowing our knees to jerk about sex, while we ignore sins that are much more clearly and often condemned in Scripture, like injustice to the poor. We need careful study of Scripture and society over some years, not swift ill-thought through claims about complex social issues.

    • comparing slavery to gay marriage is not an argument that will work for me as I do not think slavery per se is a sin. By this I am defining slavery by working for no monetary income. Working for board and food. This is how most of the workers on my Grandparents farm were paid. They were called slaves. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that in itself. The oppression that almost always follows slavery is a sin. So if slavery is defined as owning another human being so that they can not leave, then yes that is wrong and sinful, by scriptures own call.

      Your church tradition argument is a little blinkered. Just because it took the western church forever to workout that the 19th century slave trade was evil does not mean the wider church was ambivalent to the issue. The Arabic churches have spoken out against slavery throughout church history. Not to mention Augustine and the Mercedarians of the Middle Ages. William Wilberforce even used these examples of church tradition to argue for abolition.

      Calixtus, Pius I, and possibly Clement I were all freed slaves. If the Bible doesn’t come down hard enough on slavery for our liking it is worth remembering that if Christianity did, it would have been effectively asking for an empire wide revolution. “The early church didn’t denounce slavery directly but rather acted as if slavery didn’t exist.” – my Bible dict.

      gay marriage is a very different issue to slavery in the 19th century.

      • Of course the issues are different. That’s why we ones we face need careful study and prayer rather than jerking our knees in the same direction as we did “last time” and punishing anyone who steps out of line.
        Quite aside from the presenting issue of an attempt to exclude some churches from the union.

        We have two issues that need this care the first is the nature of marriage. For the last few generations we have allowed our practice to slip and slide following changes in society blindly and with little theological thought to back up our changed practice. Quick easy divorces anyone? Marriage as a hollywood production anyone? We should start with a reevaluation of our theology and practice of marriage.

        Then there is the issue of homosexuality. Is it the sexual violence and oppression inherent in (almost?) all homosexual activity in the ancient world that the Bible intended to condemn? Or is it the acts themselves? As a start we need more careful thinking around such questions. We might even ask ourselves what Paul “it is better to marry than to burn” might say on this issue…

        Again, I am not trying to argue for “gay marriage” just that the issues are not simple or clearcut.

        If they are not, and even perhaps if they are, making a church’s response to them a test of whether we can have fellowship with them in the Union seems to overstate the importance of one issue. I’d rather we kicked out churches that fail to condemn oppressive practices in business, especially in International trade, but you’ll cry “the issues are complex” in that case it is the politics and economics that may be complex the Bible from Exodus to the gospels is clear!

  13. I am on the outer of all things baptist nowadays, but I have a question for the Baptist ministers and others involved in this thread. It seems that two alternatives are already given by the terms of the conversation: we can be unbaptist and somehow allow same sex marriage to be performed in and by baptist churches and ministers, or we can maintain ‘historical Baptist’ theological commitments to the exclusion of such a possibility. This simply mirrors the political conversation that we have been having in NZ, right? The either/or is essentially the same. My question is, does the church offer no real alternative mode of negotiating difference? Either way here, someone gets hurt. Is the church placing itself in a position where it has to make a potentially tragic decision (i.e., one or other party will be hurt) in order to maintain an abstract unity. Why is unity predicated upon being a ‘historical Baptist’ or not? Can we not find a way of speaking about unity that allows for a kind of ‘keeping the conversation open’ in a rigorous way (not so as to back out of difference, but to confront it!)? As soon as we shut down the conversation, someone is excluded, someone is hurt. Perhaps keeping it open is more difficult, requires more trust, and means that certain modes of maintaining power must be released, but it does not foreclose the possibility of reconciliation (a word that needs much more theological meat on it than is often current).

    Perhaps an analogy: the great Scottish philosophical-theologian Donald MacKinnon often spoke of one of the church’s greatest problems as its tendency to exile the tragedians, in much the same way as Plato. We exile those who ask difficult questions, who probe at the edges of the church’s discourse, exposing difficulty, messiness. What we often want is the perfectly ordered Republic, and ecclesiological institutional structures all too easily become a medium for the creation of this. The problem is, the tragedians are still there. They exist, they are simply exiled. Sure it’s messy, but why can’t we find a way to continue hosting a messy conversation? Perhaps that would be a deeply powerful form of political witness that doesn’t simply mimic the way the power of the state functions and refuses the all too simple either/or.

    You might respond that this is the reason why the motion is being considered. But, my point is that the very structuring of the process itself seems to suppose a certain kind of order and a certain mode of exercising power.

    (By the way, I grew up in a Baptist church and spent much of my theological education in Auckland involved in Baptist churches).

      • Probably about the same as what it means for a man to, since we’re both made to have hair on our legs.

        If you shave your legs, Josh, you’ll know that it absorbs unnecessary time and money that could be better spent on more important things. Particularly for women in the West, social pressure to remove body hair is connected with people’s sense of self-worth in a way that is contrary to the freedom of the gospel.

        So I’d like to help women and men achieve that freedom in all aspects of their lives, including arbitrary social norms of beauty that Jesus wouldn’t have a bar of.

        Does that help?

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