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Label Church

We’re all used to it in supermarkets – labels tell you exactly what is in the products. You’re not forced to buy the food containing sugar and salt – or any E-numbers that you wouldn’t have been aware of; they’re all there on the label.

Consumers can make a choice, now, they know what they’ll be getting; everything is laid out before them. Shouldn’t your local church be just the same?

In many churches these days (except, maybe, if they’re Roman Catholic) one can never be quite certain what one’s getting; and people have a right to make an informed choice. In some churches the commitment is to some kind of Liberal view, in another, there is orthodoxy – but first impressions can often be very deceptive.

I know several people who feel more at home in a place where minister and people don’t hold to “original sin”, and prefer to believe that people are essentially good; or that the mission of the Church is purely to serve this world (it has no other concern); Jesus was a moral teacher, and the New Testament … Fine.

Very often, churches where these beliefs and priorities rule are indistinguishable from those that are orthodox. Many clergy, while saying the traditional creeds as often as anyone else, actually believe very little of what they’re saying, but nonetheless think it’s an awfully good thing to say it.

No problem. But we have a right to know, to have it stated up front what this place that we have come to is really all about. Likewise many Evangelical churches; often-used phrases like “Biblically based” generally need explanation.

The mistake is to take anything for granted (and for those of us over fifty, to remember that the Church has changed totally since our college days). Whether or not the change matters is another question; maybe it doesn’t.

What does matter, however, is that we’re all honest and explicit, and know what’s being offered. Proper labelling would overcome many of these potential problems – and the exercise of describing our beliefs would help in a variety of ways, not least in preventing us adopting the (incorrect) notion that Christian faith cannot be rationally defined, understood, and defended.