Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Differences of Opinion

Red posted on differences of opinion and I felt that my answer was so long that it had better be a separate post!

For me there are two questions in Red's post.  The first is what do we do when we agree that something is wrong and the other is what we do when we don't agree.  When we all agree then it is relatively easy - although I suspect that there are few things that we all agree on!

So, when we don't agree, what happens then?  As Red said, Suem posted a link to the Bishop of Gloucester talking about what are first order issues and what aren't - where we have to agree and where we don't:
I think the best place is with the categorising of first and second order issues. I am quite clear that the issues on which the creeds make a firm statement - God as trinity, the divinity of Christ, the death and the resurrection of the Lord, the role of the Spirit and more - are first order issues on which there can be no change in what the Church teaches. They are fundamental to the Christian faith. I am equally clear that there are second order issues, which are important, and where interpretation of the tradition needs to be careful and prayerful, but where nevertheless individual churches and provinces need to be free to define doctrine in the way that seems to them to be in accordance with the mind of Christ.

Second order issues are those where we recognise that Christians can come to different conclusions and Christians can allow their view to be shaped in dialogue with their culture without imperilling the good news of Jesus Christ, setting back the Kingdom of God or breaking the fundamental unity of the Church.
There has recently been further discussion about whether the gay issue is first order or not, and whether instead we shouldn't be trying to get on together:
If the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives can do it in Britain, surely the liberals and conservatives in the Christian world can form some sort of coalition to bring new leadership to the Anglican morass. They must put their differences behind them, for the sake of God, themselves and the common good.  Ruth Gledhill
The outcome will be a great challenge to the beliefs of many who have understood themselves to be faithful, orthodox, committed Christians and Anglicans.  Colin Coward
All spiritual teachers tell us “DO NOT JUDGE.” For those of us raised in a religious setting, this is very difficult. In a strange way, religion gave us all a Ph.D. in judgmentalism.  Richard Rohr quoted by Bishop Alan
I don't want to argue the pros and cons of the gay debate here, but instead ask why we can't accept that we have differences of opinion over this and recognise that we are all trying to follow the teachings of Jesus as best we can?
I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
Oliver Cromwell: Letter to the general assembly of the Church of Scotland (August 3, 1650)

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