An update on the sad story of Francis Macnab and St Michael's Uniting Church.
The Uniting Church Synod voted today to request St Michael’s remove freeway signs and other media related to its “new faith” advertising campaign because it causes “deep offense to many Christians, Jews and Muslims”.
The denomination is in a dilemma. Macnab has pushed a secularized “faith” to it's logical conclusion. If we're free to recreate the Christian faith in our own image, what's wrong with Macnab's “new” form of Christianity?
The statement says nothing about the truth or otherwise of Macnab's beliefs as a minister for life at St Michael's. He was not censured because his message is untrue but because it may cause offense to some people. But if Macnab offends some Christians, Jews and Muslims by calling the 10 Commandments “negative”, what if he puts up a banner commending the 10 Commandments and that offends other people?
Macnab is out of step with the Synod because his actions have “the potential damage to ecumenical and interfaith relationships”. But what if the Uniting Church's own statement of beliefs proclaims “Jesus is Lord” causes offense to other faiths?
Uniting Church moderator, Jason Kioa called for restraint by outraged church members, saying it was important to be aware how public statements would be perceived within and beyond the church. “I remind all members that we are called to be a fellowship of reconciliation,” he said.
In its Basis of Union, the Uniting Church aligns itself with the Holy Scriptures and the witness of the Reformation and the teachings of John Wesley.
It promises to:
. . . commit its ministers and instructors to study these [Reformation and Wesleyan] statements, so that the congregation of Christ's people may again and again be reminded of the grace which justifies them through faith, of the centrality of the person and work of Christ the justifier, and of the need for a constant appeal to Holy Scripture.
The Uniting Church is in serious decline. Within the next 15 years, it will lose half of its adult constituency. Macnab is not the problem. He's a symptom of a movement that has lost its way.
If he can not longer support the core beliefs of his denomination he should have the integrity to resign or be removed. If the church congregation wants to go with him, let them have the building.
The Uniting Church should return to its evangelical heritage and seek God's forgiveness for straying from it. It's not too late. And even if it is too late for the institution, God's favour is worth far more than institutional survival.