Phase Coaching

Reflections on life, spirituality and growing older

Operating as usual

[08/24/17]   Gathering my thoughts on the SSM issue as it gathers momentum after a bizarre political process. I don't think that many folk are going to change their stance on this divisive subject, both within and outside the church, so this is me clarifying my own thoughts , not evangelising.
Two main groups of thought for me..
One....Marriage is a status conveyed by the state. Even when conducted in a religious setting the legitimacy is under State law.
So for the State to alter the definition of marriage is entirely its prerogative. The definition has been changed before ( and relatively recently) to refer to a man and a woman. As far as I can determine, although civil unions exist already , there are significant legal differences in relation to the relational rights of the folk involved when compared to the rights of a married couple....Particularly in the event of separation or death. Next of kin issues are relevant here. Hence I see the argument for equality of status in such relationships.
Having a plethora of relational types with different criteria is messy and inevitably hurtful in some situations.
The definition of marriage as between one man and one woman has a shaky history....even biblically, but that later....
So change is not that much of an issue for me.
On the subject of does get more difficult but the general evidence suggests that by and large kids who are well cared for in same s*x unions are not disadvantaged. There will always be dramatic exceptions but we cannot base our conclusion on those. If that were the case, traditional marriage would have been banned long ago.
SS couples have to go through great hoops to acquire children....the safety net exists, far more so than with conventional marriages.

Turning to the Christian context we get into murkier waters! Clearly there are differing opinions even within the same denominations. This should be a waning that this is not as black and white as we would like it to be.
The strongest case it seems, against this is based on the view of homos*xuality as somehow abhorrent to God. This based on a literal view of several key texts.
Once we delve into these however, we find them to be quite tricky to accurately interpret.
Many books written on this topic, but my view is simply this:
If we want to apply the OT to the subject we can't pick and choose.......why ignore so many other laws and hang on to this?
Quite apart from the historical and contextual issues surrounding the texts.....too much to detail here.
If we then move to the NT we find a similar difficulty, the language used in the Pauline texts defies simple translation. It is easy to read our English versions and ignore the linguistics involved. There is a lot of grey in this area.
So I cannot accept a strong biblical argument to discriminate against same s*x relationships, provided that they are subject to the same standards as heteros*xual marriage in terms of fidelity etc.
As I have posted elsewhere I am convinced that homos*xuality is an inbuilt and genetic disposition in some folk. ( where it is a real choice then that is a different matter)
So I conclude that there is no ground for denying these people their legal right to enter into a genuine lifelong relationship with all recognition by the State. I would argue strongly for the protection of celebrants to choose not to officiate if that is their conviction.(although ministers have that right refuse to marry if they so decide.)
Finally I don't believe that we as Christians, whilst being entitled to our views, have the right to impose them on non believers. We certainly would object to the reverse situation!
That is my conviction on the matter.


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[03/20/16]   I've been thinking about prayer recently and there's something that someone might try and explain for me....
I see lots of FB posts requesting prayers and a theme seems to be common that the more prayers the better. Prayer chains etc have the same concept. I have generally tried to comply with these, but the thought hit me recently: what kind of a God do we portray when we seem to think that the more prayers that go up the more likelihood there is of a response? Does it really make a difference whether one, a dozen or a hundred people pray for a specific item?
If the prayers are there to focus us on the issue, and so possibly act to resolve it if it's within our powers, that's fine. But let's not imagine that God waits to see how many will pray before He acts!

[07/11/15]   Reflecting a lot recently on the whole LGBTI debate in the church context. Once again biblical literalism results in a position whereby a group of marginalised people receives, from many quarters, a hammering from Christians. Whilst I concede that some folk may choose this "lifestyle" , I am deeply convinced that a number of people are born with same s*x attraction. The jury is out on the genetic evidence but it's only a matter of time before it is found. So why can the church , in the main, only offer these people compulsory celibacy or condemnation? Then on the same s*x marriage debate there is a sad lack of clear thinking with dubious appeals to the "biblical" concept of marriage, which is usually a concoction of loosely connected arguments to support a preconceived view. Very disappointing.

[03/04/15]   First of my posts on reading AcHistory of Israel by John Bright whilst on holiday.

Opening sections. Bright goes into a lot of detail to set the scene for the prehistory of Israel...noting that the national identity probably did not appear until around the 13th century BC. He takes time to outline the emerging civilisations in Mesopotamia, Egypt and the region of Canaan/Palestine noting that places like Jericho have a history back to the 8th millennium BC.
True history starts around the late third millennium when writing emerges and so records are available to us...some in huge numbers. Upper and lower Mesopotamia are culturally advanced and the Egyptian dynasties likewise show great development. Around the time of the patriarchs, and Abraham in particular, the region has been through turmoil. The detail is complex but well recorded.
There is no direct evidence to support the historical veracity of the patriarchal narratives in the OT, but the secondary evidence is convincing, particularly the use of names, customs and traditions which are in keeping with the contemporary writings of the period around 2000BC.
The significant point for bible readers is to understand that these narratives have an historical and cultural context......reading only genesis 12 onwards one sees a very narrow set of memories, written many centuries after the events took place. One might think that Abraham and his family left the land of his father as a family unit and wandered south west towards other lands. In fact they were probably caught up in the massive tribal movements of the times involving many thousands of individuals. They came from a culture with an impressive history, a set of religious traditions and beliefs and concepts of law and order. Some of these things would inevitably find themselves influencing the formation of the early patriarchal religion.
The similarities between the writings of Genesis 1-11 , for example, with texts from other early cultures, is hardly coincidental. Both Creation and Flood stories have roots in traditions that would have been known to the early patriarchs.
Jumping ahead a little, Bright is keen to emphasise that the stories have strong grounds in history, even if in a broad brush sense, and we should not discount their value simply because they were recorded so late in the overall timeframe and based on oral transmission.

[08/13/14]   Reading "Convictions" by Marcus Borg whilst on holiday here in Thailand......finding it a good summary of where I sit on my spiritual journey.
Also reading a large volume on the History of Europe ...which is intrinsically connected to the history of the Church.

[12/31/13]   Sitting at home on New Year's Eve with a bit of a bug....trying to find words to express my thoughts about the recent past and commitments to the future. 2013 saw some pretty fierce debates in Christian circles on a number of topics...classically left and right wing disputes.
My own journey has continued as I read and reflect as widely as I can as I enter the later season of my life. As a chaplain, watching people die has an impact on ones own inner processes.....
There is a lot I want to say, but the summary is that in 2014 I will be less outspoken, but will try to defend my position less forcibly. I find myself continuing to be "left of centre" in my thinking...pretty evident I guess. This has been a shift over the last 5 years as I have exposed myself to new ideas and concepts, mainly from the progressive school. I am convinced that the various arguments over Christian matters mostly boil down to the view of scripture taken by the proponents. Either you see the bible as absolute and inerrant or you don't....pretty simple, but the implications are profound. After several years of reading and research I have to say that whilst I take scripture seriously I cannot take it as literal inerrant truth on all I make my position clear. This position frees me from the need to defend ideas that no longer stand scrutiny in the light of 21st century knowledge, but allows me to engage the text as a serious body of spiritual and Lifeskills wisdom.
So I continue my
Journey into 2014 by committing to ongoing study and growth to become a balanced human living as best I can (with my fallibility!) in the light of Christ's principles and teachings. It is now much more about how I live relationally than about intellectual,cold, theological perceptions. I will always enjoy private discussion with those on a different journey, but I will no longer participate in futile public debate! God bless you on your personal journey,,,

[12/29/13]   Preparing for the new year and a serious resolution......

[05/05/13]   Shared a tricky message this morning about what scripture says about same gender relationships. My conclusion....if it is a lifestyle choice then it's a bad choice and outside Godly living, but if its an innate orientation then the church has no right to condemn....the biblical writers had no knowledge of this possibility so we cannot expect them to address it. We are left to confront it with grace and love as Christ expects us to deal with everyone else. Hats off to the serpentine church for listening and (for the most part) accepting the need to deal with such an issue.

[03/25/13]   I haven't posted here for ages....still on my journey of assessing so much about the traditional faith walk that I find difficult to retain in the light of so much new scholarship. Had a real "aha" moment last night when watching David Attenborough's Galapagos show. I was grappling with the enormity of life in all its forms and wonder on this planet, when I had a profound and very personal sense of being immersed in it as a participant in its wonder .....I see that as a God moment!

[10/04/12]   I really like this statement is a pretty good summary of where i find myself at present...Progressive Christianity is a post-liberal approach to the Christian faith that is influenced by postmodernism and: proclaims Jesus of Nazareth as Christ; emphasizes the Way and teachings of Jesus, not merely His person; emphasizes God's immanence not merely God's transcendence; leans toward panentheism rather than supernatural theism; emphasizes salvation here and now instead of primarily in heaven later; emphasizes being saved for robust, abundant/eternal life over being saved from hell; emphasizes the social/communal aspects of salvation instead of merely the personal; stresses social justice, environmental protection, and non-violence as integral to Christian discipleship; takes the Bible seriously but not necessarily literally, embracing a more interpretive, metaphorical understanding; emphasizes orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy (right actions over right beliefs); embraces reason as well as paradox and mystery -- instead of blind allegiance to rigid doctrines and dogmas; does not consider homos*xuality to be sinful; and does not claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God (is non-exclusive).

[09/30/12]   Watching Compass on ABCTV, about Anglican congregations that are joining a hybrid Catholic
"Ordinariate" . Very strange.....watching small groups of elderly folk, led by ageing priests, clinging to traditions.....sadly anachronistic and practically irrelevant.

[09/23/12]   Just watched an SBS doco on assisted death for the terminally ill as done in Switzerland. Included video of an actual death by an English guy with motor neurone disease....looking for words to describe the impact...disturbing ( emotionally) ...dignified, profound, powerful, challenging..seemed much better than some of the sad cases I have seen this year of folk who are kept alive as long as possible by artificial means...

[09/15/12]   Once again the religious fanatics demand all kinds of violent actions totally out of step with the faith they purport to represent.....where are the moderate Muslims out protesting from the other side?

[09/07/12]   My views of the media confirmed again today when listening to a session on ABC today on which I had inside beat up, no real factual discussion and a lot of heat with no light...disappointing

[09/04/12]   Saw a fascinating programme on the box last night about a young guy who was engaged to be married, a Blakey bloke, who had a fall, hit his head and woke up gay. Says a lot to me about the origins of same s*x attraction ( in many cases if not all) and the need for a revision of traditional church views....

[05/15/12]   Haven't posted here for awhile....been doing a lot of thinking and reading. I am trying to write some sort of summary of the conclusions I have come to at this point of the journey. Hope to share them soon!

[03/25/12]   saw a programme on SBS tonight about a priest's struggle (catholic I think - didn't see the whole thing) to admit to his church that he was gay (and celibate)...very challenging - his sincerity was profound and his turmoil disturbing...I have to say that I am convinced that God does not hate g**s, nor do I think that genetic homos*xuality is a sin in the biblical sense.....not a decision I come to lightly

[02/14/12]   Just taking a side track as I read on holiday here in Phuket.....the early years of Christendom were ravaged by division and politics..ending in a 3 way split between the Western, Eastern and African doesn't paint a pretty picture historically and the situation gets worse as the story unfolds.The papacy has some particularly ugly stories... The church has always been a very human institution....The ideal of the Body of Christ is nowhere to be found.

[02/02/12]   Well enough negative stuff - there's heaps more but you have to read the books! Suffice to say that I do not think that an expression of Christianity that somehow denies the reality that faces people most days can survive too much longer....pretending that the Earth was created in 7 days and that God is a kind of sugar daddy in the sky does not work any more. The tough questions come when we are honest enough to address the uncertainty of our existence and what spirituality is about....

[01/31/12]   Again a very broad approach to a complex issue - the first 5 books of our Bible - the Jewish Torah - are now known (with a pretty universal acceptance by scholars) to be a melding of 4 key documents written at different times with different perspectives. The key writings were made around 1000BC long after any of the events they describe, and certainly not by Moses. (Abraham is dated to about 1800BC and Moses to 1200BC - again rough figures) The 2 main strands are also the result of the split of the nation into 2 Kingdoms after the death of Solomon and represent 2 views of the Jewish history written from differing can get the detail of this in any good textbook. Hence the 2 variations on creation (see my previous post). The other 2 strands similarly were written by other authors. When we know this we can see why the amalgamated text is a bit tricky to get through and seems to have repetitions and's only a problem if you want to force the text to be literally inerrant....a more informed approach actually brings it to life in a very helpful way!

[01/30/12]   The traditional view of the scriptures is that God "up there" came in search of mankind and after an indeterminate time after the creation he speaks to Abraham and calls him to undertake a journey that would be the beginning of the history of the Jewish people. In recent times I have found it very helpful to read the Bible from another, complimentary perspective. As the history unfolds I think of it more as a record of the nation's search for God and meaning to you read, this results in a wonderful unfolding of understanding - as the perception of "God" moves from a fairly primitive tribal deity (similar to s many others of the patriarchal period) to a powerful, transcendent God of the great prophets...."God" did not change, but man's understanding of Him certainly did...Just one important thing - you have to understand the chronology of the Bible books - they are not collected in the correct timeline order!



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