Five New Year Wishes for the Church

1. A mature debate on same-sex marriage

Within the Christian world there are a variety of principled perspectives on same-sex marriage, including diverse views within the conservative wing of the church. Yet it seems that this discussion is surrounded with hysteria. The moment anyone urges anything other than opposition to same-sex marriage they are pilloried. It is my wish for the church that we could conduct a mature debate in which we listen to one another, carefully consider what each has to say, and recognise that neither the faith nor the well-being of humankind is threatened by our different points of view.

2. A bold prophetic voice

Since being elected the Abbot government has unwound the aid budget, brutalised refugees, all but destroyed collective action on climate change, and responded to Australia’s structural deficit problems with measures that are harsh towards the disadvantaged. Unfortunately critique of the government in those areas is all too often portrayed as partisan politics. Surely it is the role of the church to offer prophetic critique to whoever is in power? It is my wish for the church that we will exercise a strong, bold, powerful critique, calling our government to repentance and justice.

3. Finally come to grips with the end of Christendom

Part of the challenge for the Church in exercising a bold prophetic voice is coming to grips with the end of Christendom. In the era of Christendom the Church looked to the state to legislate Christian virtues, to enact legislation that made society “Christian”. We no longer live in Christendom but in a pluralist society, where the role of the state is not to tell people what virtues they should live by but to preserve justice. It is my wish for the church that we would finally let go of efforts to get the state to impose Christian virtue and instead call upon the state to enact justice.

4. Recovery of confidence in the gospel

In the past two or three decades the experience of pluralism and the rise of interdisciplinary studies have caused many followers of Jesus to abandon both the doctrines and the approach of their fundamentalist youth. We are more comfortable with shades of grey, ambiguity, and openness to the insights and wisdom of other faith traditions. This however has sometimes meant an erosion of confidence in the good news of Jesus as God’s means for repairing that which is broken in our lives and world. It is my wish for the Church that we would retain our openness while at the same time discovering fresh ways to proudly and confidently articulate our understanding and experience of Jesus.

5. A rich personal experience of Christ

Underpinning all our prophetic witness, all our confidence in the gospel, all our ability to conduct mature debates on controversial issues, will be the personal experience of Christ in the lives of believers. So it is my wish for believers that our experience of Christ would be deeply personal, deeply enriching, and transformative of every dimension of our existence.

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