Our Churches are a part of the Church of England, in the Diocese of Exeter, which at least says something about our location,if nothing else, because Church of England Churches seem to span an enormous part of tradition and belief. If we don’t always get this right, we are always happy to listen and act to ensure we do better, we are all a work in progress! Even though the styles of worship and the vibe of worship may be different across our Churches, we can say the following things about our approach to faith, Scripture and Christian life and which will, we hope, show you what kind of Church we are striving/hoping to be…
- Jesus Christ was fully divine whilst at the same time being fully human. In the course of his dutiful incarnation on earth he therefore easily (what with being divine and all) performed what to him alone weren’t miracles at all. As a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God (and so of course for each person to him or herself) he allowed for his bodily execution on the cross; by way of (yet again) proving that he was divine he then rose from the dead; for the benefit of all people he left behind the totality of him/her self in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which is readily and easily available to everyone.
- The Bible is not a contract stipulating the rules for being a Christian. It is an ancient, massive, infinitely complex tome comprising songs, visions, histories, dreams, parables, commandments, and more. Christians seeking to follow the Word of God must look to all the words of God, ever seeking within those words the spirit of Jesus Christ. This means never failing to choose love, compassion and charity over adherence to any Biblical “law” that in practice or spirit violates Christ’s Great Commandment to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
- Christianity is supposed to be all about nothing more (and nothing less!) than living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility.
- The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word condemning natural homosexuality is more credible and persuasive than is the scholarship claiming that he did. Moreover, we remain mystified as to how any follower of Jesus could choose damning an entire population over obeying Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and one’s neighbor as oneself. We therefore love, support and affirm the individuals, families and relationships of all forms, and we stand alongside the whole LGBT community. God reaches out to all of us, without favour or judgement, just love.
- The Cross is the victory over sin and death, a hope for all people, for all time and not a punishment inflicted on Jesus by a vengeful, bloodthirsty tyrant of a God. This image of God (called penal substitution, or substitutionary atonement) is a narrow misunderstanding of the justice, sacrifice and mercy that Christ undertook to save the world.
- God does not want any woman automatically “submitting” to her husband or to anyone else.
- Using masculine pronouns to refer to God is strictly a matter of convention, a profoundly unfortunate necessity of the English language, which to date offers no satisfactory alternative. But God is neither male nor female. God is always, at once, both and unimaginably more.
- Christ is really, truly, genuinely present with us in the Blessed Sacrament: the bread and wine of the Eucharist. This isn’t icky, this is awesome.
- The belief that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different culture streams is more reasonable, respectful, and compassionate than is the conviction that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God.
- There is no support in the Bible for the morally repugnant idea that hell is an actual place to which God sentences people to spend eternity in mortal agony. God’s love is much more awesome than that.
- God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not to judge and punish us.
- God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.
- Saints are cool. They point us towards God and they pray alongside us in heaven. Asking the intercession of Our Blessed Lady (in the Hail Mary) and the whole company of Saints is no different than asking a different group of friends “will you pray for me?”
- An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
- Science is awesome. The more we learn of science, the more appreciative we should be about God’s marvellous work.
- Getting a divorce is painful, and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But in and of itself divorce is not immoral.
- God works through people, through the Sacraments of the Church and through you. No one is beyond God’s love and no one is beyond our love. You are an agent of that love as well so that God’s love may be shared.
- The Sacraments of the Church (the Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Healing, Ordination, Reconciliation) are open to ALL, regardless of marital status, gender, sexuality etc etc. (Although to be honest, I’m not in charge of ordination, but at least the other 6). Some of these work in a particular order because they are about a journey of faith, but never let anyone say that ANYONE is unworthy of Baptism, Healing or Reconciliation at any time, in any place.
- The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.
The most important thing to recognise is that this list is constantly changing because God’s revelation to us is constantly changing and evolving. He didn’t stop speaking to the Church after the last book of the Bible was written but keeps revealing himself through the power of the Holy Spirit. The most important thing to recognise is this: whatever you think we believe, come and experience it for yourself and experience our community, for we’re not like many of the others in these parts.
Some parts of this were adapted from materials from the Unfundamentalist Christian blog http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/. With grateful thanks.