I received a prayer bulletin from Pray for Scotland today. This is an organisation run by some wonderful people whom it was a great privilege to meet and spend time with a few years ago when Michaela and I first arrived in Scotland, hungry for connection, and to understand what God might be up to north of the border. Pray for Scotland can be characterised as evangelical, charismatic and apostolic in their aims- full of people who believe that prayer can make a difference to the very character of our nation.
It was through PFS that I first heard of people who genuinely believed and hoped for a revival, as prophesied by Jean Darnell- something I have written about before on this blog- here.
However, I had some trepidation as I opened the e-mail as I could guess what the content would be. Both the media and the church are full of talk about gay marriage at the moment, and so I was both saddened by, and not surprised, to read the content of this newsletter. Here are a few extracts;
Dear Praying friends
I’m sending out this extra E-letter regarding the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2012-13 . The bill is being read in the House of Commons today 5 February 2013 and we think its important that we all join together to pray for our leaders. I have brought some material together for prayer and information on the issues.
Let’s storm heaven with our petitions of ‘ His kingdom come’ in the UK government and ‘His will to be done’ .
At the very beginning I found myself wondering about our common understanding of the Kingdom of God, and whether we would ever want to ‘storm heaven’.
Dear Friends, Tuesday. 5th Feb. will be the second reading of a bill in Westminster on redefining marriage.
We would appreciate if you would pray at a convenient time during the day..There will be a bill come to the Scottish parliament, however Westminster will influence Scotland particularly in the area of equality bill and protection of people in ministry and public offices eg. registrars, teachers, social workers..On Sunday many people prayed in churches and the following was the suggested corporate prayer—.‘Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of marriage which you established at the dawn of time, to be a blessing throughout the earth, down through the ages. We pray you would fill every marriage with your love and grace, and that every husband and wife would know the joy that comes from sharing and giving. We thank you for establishing marriage to be a secure and stable environment for raising children..We pray for all those who do not enjoy these blessings, remembering you are a father to the orphan and a husband to the widow. We pray, as you have commanded us, for those in positions of civil authority. We pray that our government will act with wisdom and righteousness, upholding marriage as the voluntary union of one man to one woman for life, for the good of all people..We pray for forgiveness for our nation as our government seeks to redefine marriage. We pray for ourselves that we would speak out in support of marriage with gentleness and kindness, also with courage and confidence. in the name of our lord Jesus Christ, amen. –.Jean Black(Mrs)Director Pray for Scotland
- That marriage will not be redefined, and that real marriage will be promoted in society for the good of all.
- That as many MPs as possible will vote against the Bill to redefine marriage.
- For David Burrowes, MP and others, as they lead opposition to the Government’s plans in the House of Commons.
- For the Coalition for Marriage group as it campaigns to defend the true meaning of marriage.
- For politicians and others in public life to have the courage to stand up for what is right and true.
- For the news media, that they would report the issue widely, fairly, and accurately.
- That the true consequences of redefining marriage would be publicly known and properly discussed.
- That people would not face discrimination, in the workplace or elsewhere, because of their sincere beliefs about marriage.
I decided that I would reply to Pray for Scotland in the form of an open letter. I do so with some trepidation as I do not like conflict, nor am I ever happy to offend anyone. However I have come to believe that this is one of those issues that I can not stay silent on- that unless other people see that there is a real debate going on in the church as to what is the right way to respond to changes in society around homosexual rights then we do a disservice to Jesus and everything that he was.
Here is my reply;
Dear praying friends
Firstly thank you for your faithfulness in continuing to encourage those of us who are seeking to follow Jesus in Scotland to pray. However please forgive me, but I felt that I needed to respond to your latest prayer bulletin. I have made this the subject of an ‘open letter’ via my blog, and am happy for you to re-use these words as you see fit.
The issue of marriage and the underlying (but primary) issue of the Church’s correct stance towards people who are homosexual are ones that have the capacity to polarise and I have little interested in becoming involved in endless circuitous debates. However, your bulletin appears to assume that there is only one perspective on this issue and that all praying Christians will have come to the same view as the organisations you quote about the sanctity of marriage and the inherent sinfulness of a homosexual ‘lifestyle’.
I would respectfully suggest that this is not the case. There are many Christians, like myself, who have come to a different position after years of prayerful engagement with scripture and the traditional teachings of Evangelical churches. I think many of us were very heartened to read Steve Chalke‘s (Oasis Trust) piece on this issue, which was quoted in Christianity Magazine, and can be read in full here; http://www.oasisuk.org/article.aspx?menuId=31887 I will not seek to rehearse the theology, as Steve has done it far better than I could.
Although I am aware that some will be scandalised by what Steve has to say (and its implications for the way we read the Bible) as Pray for Scotland seek to unite Christians in prayer for our nation I consider it vital that we bear in mind that this is not a marginal view- rather it is one that an increasingly large part of the Body of Christ in Scotland are beginning to awake to.
I have read and re-read Jean’s suggested prayer, which is full of grace as I know her to be. However, I simply can not join you in many of the prayer points you outline. I am excluded from being able to do this because I believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us on a new path- towards the radical inclusion of the outsider that Jesus modeled for us in everything that he was. I accept that some of you will be convinced of my error in understanding Scripture and my conviction that the new marriage bill poses no danger whatsoever to this nation, nor to the intrinsic value of marriage. Even in our disagreement I would however ask you to consider whether the views you hold allow us to join in a universal prayer for Scotland
In my own prayers, I decided I could join you in prayer in these ways;
- Thanking God for the gift of marriage- for the blessing it has been in my own life, and the life of others all around me.
- Praying for those who are married, that their relationships may be characterised by peace, productivity, life long loyalty and blessing. Praying that this kind of relationship will be available to all.
- Praying particularly for people whose marriages have NOT been like this- for those who have known pain, abuse and brokenness in their marriages. For divorced people, for those alone. Praying for them to find peace, and renewed companionship.
- Praying in particular for the children born to marriages like the one above. The children born to these marriages will have all sorts of disadvantages and damage, and so I will pray that these might be turned towards healing by grace.
- I will also say sorry to God that I am part of a society that constantly tends towards selfishness, over consumption, empire building and trivialisation, whilst at the same time undervaluing the principles of love and justice that would lead us always towards the other- particularly those who are marginalised and stigmatised by society.
May you be richly blessed
(Comments on this piece are welcome, but will be strictly moderated- let us discuss this issue with love and respect or not at all.)