Comments: Opinion - 13 August 2016

The article on baptism is an interesting summary, well worth reflecting upon, especially by those of us who belong to an established church with a relationship to the whole nation, churched and unchurched.

I love the fact that in the foundation story of Israel, everyone was delivered through the Red Sea: the young, the old, babies, children, doubtless people without mental capacity through age or other reason... that archetypal 'baptism' was provided for the whole nation, regardless of their faith, or lack of it.

And to me, that is an expression of the profound truth that God acts first. God is the founder of faith, not us. In the act of infant baptism, we are signalling that it is the saving grace of God - and the salvation of Jesus Christ - that comes first in Christian life. The primary principle is the faithfulness of God, not the faithfulness of people.

That doesn't render human faith irrelevant, but in the eyes of God, every person matters, and it is above all God's own faithfulness that carries us through. At baptism we become Christians, as infants at the baptismal font. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we may fall away. But we're part of the Christian family from the beginning, from our baptism.

To me, our relationship to the nation is a bit like that. If we close our doors on the unfaithful... well, did God act like that in Egypt? I believe that infant baptism should be offered to all who request it for their children. If the parents' faith falls short... well, there are still the prayers of the church... and above all, the faithfulness of God, which is always there at the beginning, bearing grace in the sacrament.

I believe in an established Church as a sign that God is God of *all* the nation, not just the holy huddle of elect. And the Church should be an open door, and a welcome and invite, which even unchurched people can feel is 'their' church when they need it.

I believe I became a Christian when I was baptised as a baby. I still underwent a 'born again' experience after a car crash, that profoundly opened up my heart and understanding towards God, but God's faithfulness to me came first, and was with me all the way along my journey, even when I didn't seem to know God.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 12:18pm BST

Colin: "I believe that the quality of our relationships is fundamental to the call to healing and common life, living alongside and working with people, as transparently as possible, engaged with, praying with, exploring truth with, journeying on the Way with as it evolves over a lifetime."


People talk about doctrine and some try to demand uniformity, or an institutional imperium (like the Covenant...)

But actually, common life and unity has to be *lived* and *shared* in relationship. God the Holy Trinity, after all, is fundamentally and radically relational. It is the very nature of the eternal household of God.

So our unity is a journey, not an imposed doctrine. It is an opening up to God, to grace, and love. It is a sharing, and, quite often, a sharing with people we don't quite get on with, or agree with. ('Love your enemies', perhaps?)

In the end, it is not institutional 'correctness' that is most essential (sorry, Pharisees...)

What is essential, as Colin says, is the quality of our love, the quality of our relationships, and that comes - along a life's journey with all its ups and downs - when we prioritise not religious correctness, but the opening up of our hearts to the tender love and grace of God.

And that is a radical work of the Spirit, and that brings with it unexpectedness, and sometimes the unknown and uncertain, the new horizons, the need to grow and change.

But our healing, individually and as a Church, needs love at the heart of our relationships... respect and care for the other... accommodation of difference... tender generosity... forbearance... recognition that we may not agree, but we can certainly love one another, and love God, and seek to serve our neighbour.

We are simply not called to be all the same. We are called to love. That's far harder, but God calls it that way, and offers the grace that helps our relationships start to draw in towards the grace and relationships of the Trinity, the great sharing, and family, and household that is God. Love really is the greatest command, how we live our lives, how we treat one another.

God grant us mercy to open to your love, so tenderly shared and as costly as a son's spilt blood. God gives, and challenges us to do the same. It is eternal truth in action.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 12:56pm BST

When does an event become a saga? When it's personal, for one thing. Peter Hitchens is driven and determined but that doesn't necessarily make one's viewpoint right. The Bell case may be many things to Peter, I can't really say.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 13 August 2016 at 11:40pm BST

I am certain Colin Coward's piece (which ought to be read in conjunction with hid blog posts either side) will resonate with many on TA.

I see it very differently.

For me, contemplative prayer involves two key components. Firstly, revelation. Secondly, discernment. Is the revelation from God, auto-suggestion, or is it from the great deceiver? Pieces which talk of revelation without balancing discernment worry me. It is a problem by no means limited to liberals. The thing is, revelation can occur in an instant. Discernment tends to require significant work over a period of time and, crucially, it involves testing the revelation against Scripture.

St Teresa of Avila said, "I will only warn you that, when you learn or hear that God is granting souls these graces, you must never beg or desire Him to lead you by this road. Even if you think it is a very good one... there are certain reasons why such a course is not wise."

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 8:15am BST

Cool article on Baptism: it illustrates both how important and how silly discussing - or arguing - about the sacraments can be.

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Sunday, 14 August 2016 at 2:52pm BST
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