In what is a classic case of Captain Obvious, United States crowd sourcing organisation Church Clarity is pushing churches to reveal where they stand on certain “policies” in order to be transparent and helpful to certain groups in the community.
Oh and it just so happens that their first issue of policy pertains to whether churches – evangelical churches in particular according to its site, – are affirming or non-affirming of LGBTQ attendees.
Gotta give it to them. It’s got all the subtlety of evil clown Penny Wise in the movie It , (the original and best version of course), hiding in the storm drain and coaxing people down to him with all sorts of promises. It’s incredibly passive aggressive, and is an unspoken declaration that we’re here to out you if you don’t line up with our view of sexual ethics within the church.
Of course it will never state it that baldly. Church Clarity disingenuously declares:
In the first phase of Church Clarity, our focus is on policies that directly impact LGBTQ+ people.
And just how clear is Church Clarity itself on what stance it holds towards the issue? I’m glad you asked:
Here’s one of its own FAQs and the answer to that frequently asked question, which deserved to be more frequently and more pointedly asked in ever increasing volume:
Are you advocating for a particular policy-position?
This is an important and complicated question. First, it would be the height of hypocrisy for an organization with our mission to have an ambiguous policy…..blah blah, blah, ambiguous policy, waffle waffle waffle. And so on.
In other words we have an agenda, and we’re certainly not going to reveal it to you, thank you very much. But woe betide you if you are less than clear with us about your agenda. It’s sheer hypocrisy is it not?
Well at least it’s good to know that in its “first phase” Church Clarity is interested in the issue of church policy towards sexual ethics. I guess that means they have a second phase in which a totally different matter will command their attention, and in which matters such as affirmation of LGBTQI people within a congregation will be sorted out and take a back seat.
What would that second phase issue be Church Clarity? Do you even have one? Do you even pretend to have one? Are you taking us for fools?
This is a naked attempt to flush out the ethical position of churches that hold to an orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the area of sexual ethics, particularly evangelical churches. It’s a blatant attempt to name and shame and perhaps, who knows, to on-sell this list of churches to particular advocacy groups who might like to do a little bit of public protest on Church Clarity’s behalf. And all the while letting Church Clarity keep its hands clean.
Will they do the same with policies pertaining to a church’s view of the authority of Scripture? Don’t hold your breath. Mind you any evangelical church naive enough to sign up to this organisation deserves the opprobrium coming its way.
The always excellent David Bennett has written a just as excellent piece in Christianity Today on this, in which he names this move for what it is; another exercise in control.
And you can see that control is top of the agenda from some of the items in their dropdown menus. There’s a database complete with mailing lists (that’d be fun in the wrong hands); a measure of how to score your church (interestingly Jesus’ own church scores from Revelation chs2-3 don’t rate a mention), and a snitch form, er a “submit a church” form – the perfect vehicle for grassing a congregation up that doesn’t tow your particular line. And all of this covered over in the earnest language of those who just want to compile important data for merely altruistic reasons.
Can you just imagine the early church, viewed as it was with such deep hostility by the pagan Roman culture, signing up to a program that demanded to know the inner workings of their nascent Jesus movement?
How might that look:
“Okay Jesus followers, we hear you are into incest, because husbands and wives are calling each other ‘brother and sister’. Can you please sign this codex document to prove you are not involved in incestuous relationships?”
“We hear you are into cannibalism with lots of flesh eating and blood drinking when you meet. We wouldn’t want your church to be a dangerous place should we wish to visit it in order to see if it meets our spiritual needs. Can you put an ‘X’ on the dotted line to prove you are actually vegan for when our centurions turn up?”
Faced with a growing organic movement that was hard to pin down, and which was maddeningly opaque in its practices towards the outside world, the empire, predictably enough, wanted to know the inside running of an institution which did not recognise its ultimate authority. If only it had had access to the good folk at Church Clarity to do their dirty work for them.
It’s the same kind of interest in the church, the same kind of policy compilation that many an authoritarian government has today when it comes to the church. Submit your sermons, submit your statements of faith, submit your view on A, B or C. Just to ensure the Pax Romana, nothing more nothing less.
In those early days the church did not care to explain itself to the culture beyond its allegiance to Jesus as King. It was not running around calling out to all who would listen “Hey, we’re just like the rest of you. We affirm all of your sexual ethics. Please like us in return. Please give us a score out of ten.”
No! The church’s sexual ethic in those early days was exactly the opposite of the culture’s and that is what made them such a threat to the social order. If you want to read about the sexual ethics of the pagan world of that time, then read this sobering overview by Tim Challies. It’s chilling.
And the early church kept a mystery about its mysteries. It knew that its so-called “policy” of Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not, was clearly only understood from the inside out as it was practised over time. From the outside therefore, this was strange, and threatening and clearly in need of being controlled. But at no stage did the church think to kow-tow to the zeitgeist.
Actually that’s not true. It did. Faced with persecution and humiliation many a gospel person crumbled, leaving the church with a huge pastoral mess to clean up after the era of persecutions had ended, and those who had caved in to the pressure came back begging forgiveness and re-admittance to the Table.
And of course the Roman Empire, in order to keep the peace it had so viciously fought for, extended its benevolence to all religions who would tick the right boxes and ensure that their policies kept Caesar firmly on the throne. The alternative was pressure, isolation, persecution.
Church Clarity is just a modern day example of this box ticking in the face of a church that already has a clear teaching on sexuality. For two thousand years the church has been crystal clear on the issue of sexuality. Two thousand years. For more years than that the people of God have had clear biblical frameworks about sex and marriage, steeped in the early chapters of Genesis, and marinaded in the Law and the Prophets. Two thousand years of a Jesus movement, a “Jesus is Lord” worldview and lifestyle formation. Almost two thousand years of creeds which affirm what the gospel is and is not.
But suddenly, at the pointier end of the Sexual Revolution, there’s apparently deep confusion. It’s never been clear. Never been clear until groups like Church Clarity spring up to help us.
Suddenly at the point in culture in which the biblical frame is being jettisoned at a rate of knots by an ever increasingly harsh secular culture, the Bible is just not that clear. Not clear enough that fifth columnists such as Church Clarity understand what the church might believe on any given day.
David Bennett makes this insightful observation:
What is actually happening is a politicising, framing and controlling of the discourse so that churches can be earmarked and classified, and down the track, pressured to change their perspective. Whilst the website denies that this is its goal, I am sceptical as it did not consult anyone on the Side B (orthodox-traditional gay or SSA Christians who do not support gay marriage in the Church) in the process. Their goal generally is to stage a ‘reformation’ of the whole church so that it will marry LGBTQI people.
I suspect the David Bennett’s of this world will become increasingly important to the faithful church, and increasingly scrutinised by those within the church that have capitulated to the teachings of Balaam son of Balak and Jezebel (Revelation 2). Pray for people like David, that like those churches in Revelation he will stand the test and receive the hidden manna, the white stone with his name on it, the morning star. This is no drill people, this is the real thing.
Jesus called his people to openly live as children of light. He also called them not to cast their pearls before swine. This is a prime example where we should do just that: clutch those pearls tightly to our chests and say firmly to the likes of Church Clarity, “What we have is too precious to throw in your direction. You cannot have it.”
The days are over for evangelical churches in which we can affirm a person, but not their lifestyle and think they can somehow be considered “right on” by the secular culture. That was a small window which some gospel-minded churches took advantage of admirably. They were able to lovingly welcome the sexually broken without judging them, and lead them to the water of life, the true satisfaction of Jesus.
Others, shamefully, failed to take advantage of this opportunity and were less than charitable to outsiders, having a self-righteous zeal, especially towards the sexually broken. In a great irony a good number of these churches have fallen into sexual sin themselves, through adulteries and all sorts of perversions.
And of course in the midst of that there have been some which have affirmed both person and sexual lifestyle and they will continue to do so to until the day of their terminal decline.
But let’s be clear. Despite our mixed bag of results, Jesus affirms no one’s lifestyle per se. Gay, straight, bi, rich, poor, religious, non-religious. Here’s Jesus’ version of church clarity: “If anyone would come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life (or his lifestyle?) will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus clearly affirms our need to die. He bids us sign a blank cheque, hand it over for him to fill out. And that cost could be sex, money, power, unforgivenness, lack of love, a bitter spirit, self-righteousness.
Whatever amount Jesus writes on that cheque it won’t be affirming of the things we wish to cling to that He can see will destroy us. And in our current context that includes, and seems to more frequently include, sexual autonomy that masks itself as a newly discovered biblical perspective on sexuality. And now that’s not merely the culture wooing us with sexual autonomy in the secular world, but distinct arms within the church presenting poison as food.
Don’t let the likes of Church Clarity fool you. Don’t cast your pearls before them, for their intention is to turn and rend you in pieces, or at least ensure that someone is around to do that job for them.