Monday, October 10, 2011

Culture shaping

Last week I wrote an essay on female ordination. It was about as fun as it sounds.

During lectures on the topic, it was wondered (in conjunction with the issue of homosexual ordination) if culture was shaping the direction of the church.

I think the church should never be either ignorant or neglectful of the issues raised by culture. The church is called to engage with it's culture and wrestle with the issues of the day.

But the tail shouldn't wag the dog.

Culture can (and should) certainly thrust issues into the spotlight and demand to hear what the church thinks, but I'm not convinced that the church should chase the "flavour of the month."

Sometimes we need to remember what we are actually all about. Showing the world the love and grace of God, concerned with justice and mercy. These things will cover the vast majority of issues that arise...


Anonymous said...

I'm really glad I didn't reply to this straight away, but instead I've taken the time to consider what you're saying and the thoughtful way I think it's meant... but now I have to give you a gentle smack in the face.

Firstly - who are you, or we, or the church, to decide who is and isn't called to ministry? In my years at church, I've had amazing experiences with ministers, and as a worshipper I'm a bit offended that you think you have any right stand between me and a faithful, inspired person with a true call from God, just because she's a woman. Imagine having a candidacy interview. This woman is explaining her overwhelming faith in Jesus, her burning desire to serve and spread the joy she's gained through Him by ministry. Now picture the interviewer: it's Jesus. Do you really think he cares that she's a woman?

Now this church and culture thing. You seem to be demonstrating the kind of la-la obliviousness that I've seen in so many Christians. It's this willful disregard of the fact that the church as it's own entity has committed some of the most heinous crimes in human history. The Crusades, the Roman Inquisition, even the shuffling of priests accused of molesting children continues unchecked.

Far from the moral superiority that the church *should* have over society, it's a haven of hurtful rhetoric and condemnation (especially if you're gay). All in the name of preserving "Christian society"! Culture calls the church to account for its actions, for its bigotry and for its hatefulness. The fact, sad as it is, is that the church (at large) is not a trust-worth, empowering place.

If you what the ideal Christian society would be about, I wouldn't say the Bible. I'd say Jesus, and I'd say love. The sadder fact is that I see so much more of those in popular culture than I do in churches, where we're obsessed with your gender, who you're having sex with, who you aren't giving money to, and what MY Bible says YOU'RE doing wrong.

Instead of wondering whether its okay that church be driven by cultural ideas, you should be asking yourself whether it's okay that church needs a secular babysitter.

Personally, I think it's a balance. Religious morality of the loving and open-minded kind, makes society better, advocates for the poor and the forgotten, helps us strive for something better because we have something bigger. But lets be honest - on it's own the church is a hateful, dogmatic machine that runs ram-shot over people's rights in the name of religion. In Galileo's day, it was house arrest for heresy. In my day, it's the refusal to ordinate women and allow gay people to get married.

Church needs a moral compass just as much as society needs a destination.

Graham said...

First off, sorry, I'm actually FOR female ordination. I think excluding females from ministry is extremely foolish and weakens the church and any ministry by not including them. I've even written about it in the past ( and (in part) got knocked back from a job because of my views on the topic (

That was just my launching pad back to the original discussion in a lecture. It was just noted that many of the issues to do with ordination have only arisen fairly recently… Thus the discussion about the role that modern culture played…

I'll openly admit that the church is not perfect. Sometimes far from it. At times it has horribly misrepresented Jesus.

I'll admit that the church has screwed up plenty of times in the past. I don’t have to think hard to find examples where churches are still stuffing up currently. That is a reason why female ordination, for some, is such a divisive issue.

The church SHOULD listen to culture; I even say so in the post. I think God calls the church into account for the ways it has poorly represents Him. Sometimes He (wisely!) uses those outside the faith or power structures of the church to do so. The church is not infallible. I’m just not sure it requires its primary moral compass to be based outside of the faith. Surely the bible should be enough? Surely church history should be a clear enough lesson?

If you took my post as a rant that all churches are pure havens then I apologise that I miss-communicated.

But I don't believe all churches are how you classify them. Many are not. Just those which are a flaming wreck are the ones that get the most attention.

PS… Glad that was a gentle slap!