A recent BBC News story (Feb 2019) majors on changes relating to the regulations about Sunday services (“Churches no longer have to hold Sunday services”), but as a bolt-on at the end highlights a new document describing “six principles to help improve the treatment of LGBT people”.
Specifically, we’re all encouraged to:
- Acknowledge our prejudice.
- Make churches places of welcome.
- Conduct theological discussions with respect.
- “Cast out” fear.
- Extend courtesy and kindness to all.
- Refuse to exploit power over others.
This is great teaching, straight from Scripture. (Read the C of E document for more details.) But the fact that we’re having to be taught or reminded of these principles implies that there are far too many instances where, instead, Christians will:
- Refuse to acknowledge prejudice.
- Make churches unwelcoming places.
- Conduct theological discussions disrespectfully.
- Create fear.
- Refuse courtesy and kindness to some.
- Exploit power over others.
Since I’ve used a red font, I’ll call this bad behaviour the “Red List”.
Clearly the discussion and the document were deemed necessary because LGBT people, in particular, have been treated badly. The experience of rejection described by one of the women in the video in the BBC article is a perfect, and moving, example. However, it’s unfortunately true to say that this behaviour (i.e. the Red List) can also be experienced by others who are, or are perceived to be, “different”. How do I know? Because I’ve seen it close up, and it’s not pretty. This Red List Behaviour has led to months of stress, fear, rejection and exclusion. It has nothing to do with sexuality, but the results are equally devastating. I wasn’t the target of this prejudice but I could see well enough what was happening.
As James would say, “Brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
I’ve seen it close up, and it’s not pretty.
So as believers in Christ let’s all check the “Red List”. If we know we’ve done those things, or been part of doing them, let’s stop. Now. Acknowledge it to ourselves and to God. It may sound trite to say the rest will follow, but it will if we’re serious. It certainly won’t if we don’t start.
Reality Check: I’m not suggesting that any individual or congregation ought to be perfect. And maybe the necessary changes will be painful and take time. But that shouldn’t stop us praying for the Holy Spirit to root out our Red List Behaviour and replace it with the Green List (a.k.a. the fruit of the Spirit). Down With Red! And, to hijack the environmentalists’ phrase, let’s Go Green!