Tonight I attended an event that came under the title “a living conversation with Giles Goddard” facilitated by a local church minister friend. I am glad I went. There would have been a been a time when my more conservative mentors might have warned me that to attend such an event would not be wise, given the person being conversed with would be seen as being aligned more to the liberal wing of the church rather than the conservative one I am meant to be more comfortable with (and sometimes am not), but having checked him out first on the Internet I went even so.
I decided from the outset to heed that sound advice to listen rather than speak but I did succumb in the end and asked my awkward question which was to do with trying to reconcile being part of an inclusive church with standing firm on the gospel of righteousness and imho he really didn’t answer the question well at all. But that did not detract from the value of attending such a meeting, not just to learn what people who think different to me really do think but actually to learn something of value, and that is what happened.
I enjoyed listening to some of Giles’ story and some of his perspectives, and can’t help feeling that we all need to do more of that. I liked his social action / justice passion (he mentioned his work among the homeless for example, which personally I would have liked to know more about). I was intrigued about his work on environmental issues and admired some of the things he had done on that score as well as valuing his insights, especially as these should concern Christians given it is to do with social justice. In the light of some unfair press, it was good to hear his version of events when he allowed Muslims into his church to hold a prayer service, and while I might have viewed things differently I found I could respect a position that sought to build relationships and offer Christian hospitality without necessarily endorsing the religion of Islam. And while my take on the Inclusive church may be different to his (see here and here) I found some of the insights he shared to be helpful. While it seems unlikely we will meet or work together in the future (but only the Almighty can answer that one), I felt there is a lot of common ground that we both shared.
In short, this was an enjoyable evening and well worth going along (as often happens, it is always good to bump into old friends on such occasions). Thank you Giles and Melanie and Crowstone Christian Centre for a pleasant and productive time and where I learned some useful and important things, in congenial company. While it cannot be denied there are significant differences, I hope we will continue to look for and find common ground, given the huge challenges we all face and the huge needs we would want to help to address, and may we do so as seekers after the truth but also with Christian grace.
As for me, I will go along with St. Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17