One of the things that happened in yesterday’s General Assembly debate on the report of the Special Commission on Same-Sex Relationships and Ministry was some new labels.
‘traditionalists’ and ‘revisionists’ now seem to be the labels of choice.
These are interesting labels for a number of reasons.
I wonder how they make sense in a church whose ‘motto’ is ‘always reforming’? Which ‘traditions’ and ‘revisions’ are we talking about? The traditions of the reformation? The traditions of the Old or New Testament? The traditions of a denomination?
As a denomination the Church of Scotland has moved away from a number of ‘traditional’ views. Slavery, the role of women, the enforcement of the Sabbath, stools at the front of churches used to ridicule ‘sinners’, music in church, access to communion… I wonder how many people would agree or disagree with each of those? And what label would we apply?
I think we need to be very careful about which labels we embrace and about what claims those label make for different points of view. The use of labels creates difference. It forces people to take sides.
I noticed today in Assembly a ‘traditionalist’ and a ‘revisionist’ agreeing wholeheartedly with each other about climate change.
Labels at the very least simplistic and at worst divisive in an area that doesn’t need any help to cause division. The reality of the debate around sexuality is that opinion exists on a spectrum and I suspect that there are many more people in the middle that at the ends.
I’ve already said that I’m not fluent in Greek and Hebrew. We rely on others to help us interpret, to understand and to explore. There are a variety of views on, and understandings of, scripture. Is it the role of our ministers to tell us what they think? Or is it their role to help us to understand the range of opinion?
The thing that concerns me most in this and any other theological discussion is the degree of certainty exhibited. Jesus said things that those closest to him didn’t understand. God continues to reveal His purpose for the world. We claim to seek the will of God. In many ways this discussion reminds me of the crusaders who would make a point and assert ‘God wills it!’. It’s hard to argue with God. But of course that’s not what is happening now… is it?
Surely our understanding of God is at the very least provisional as it has been throughout history (as shown in the Bible). I wonder if ‘always reforming’ is the ‘tradition’ we are talking about?