There is no way in which tension and conflict can be avoided. We probably need to be much more ready for painful conflict than we have been in an age when tolerance has been regarded as the supreme virtue. But the pain is bearable if both sides can recognise in each other a total commitment to Christ, and a total willingness to be directed by what God has done and shown us in Jesus Christ. The tension is bearable only if Christ means more to us than any of the causes to which we have committed ourselves.
It is, I think, necessary to say this rather sharply because we have in recent years seen so much of a kind of theology which can only tear the Church apart. I am referring to such well-known developments as liberation theology, feminist theology, green theology and Black theology. All of these draw attention to issues about which Christians must be vitally concerned.
They challenge the too-comfortable domestication of the Church within the reigning
establishment. But one has always to ask: “Where does my ultimate loyalty lie? Where is the bottom line?” We cannot help being exposed to propaganda on these issues which value the Church only in so far as it is an ally in a particular cause. If, in these contexts, one begins to talk (for instance) about evangelism, as though it really mattered supremely whether or not a person knows Jesus as Lord and Saviour, one is met with incomprehension. Jesus is not the supreme, issue in these new single-issue theologies. It has to be said that if this kind of thinking permeates the Church, the tension it causes will block both unity and integrity and bring us all great pain. No one can lay down general rules to determine whether and when faithfulness to Christ requires separation.
We can only pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in such a terrible dilemma. But that guidance will be given to the community which lives, thinks, perceives and acts from within the biblical story of God’s purpose for all humanity and all creation, not only at moments of crisis but at all times.
Read the whole thing here