A ‘Larbert Statement’ (memoirs of a gift of grace)

Yesterday morning I left home early, apologising to a neighbour for the state of one of the children I was leaving with her, and drove to a nondescript dormitory community in central Scotland called Larbert. I had agreed to spend a couple of days there in a confidential meeting with a group of church leaders helping them to talk about sexuality. I traveled with a heavy heart. My ears and mind were full of deadening words and shrill responses that had echoed across the Atlantic the day before. I knew just one of the people I was going to meet—liked and respected him, to be sure—but wondered if I was going into another blue-on-blue battle that would leave us all exhausted, wounded, and discouraged. I prayed as I drove, parked, pushed open a dark wooden door, and walked in. It was an impressive group of people—more than half, I think, were national leaders in one network or another—and an impressive group of contributors—At least four have a significantly higher profile in this space than me. But impressive people can still, perhaps can especially, wound and kill. We disagreed amongst ourselves. Over biblical interpretation, and patterns of leadership, and mission strategy. We told honest stories, questioned each other sharply, defended our convictions stoutly, worshipped, prayed, openly acknowledged how we each had been challenged by what we had shared, and then broke bread. We failed to agree. We succeeded in rekindling each other’s hope. We succeeded in helping each other to increased commitment to Jesus even when we understood his call in different ways. We succeeded in making mission more possible, more imaginable, even when we found the goal of mission less clear. We succeeded in respecting each other’s commitment to Scripture, even when we disagreed about how to read or apply it. I drove home this evening with a lightened heart. I wondered if I could capture what we had shared in some poor pastiche or parody of a position statement; this is my best attempt (it is entirely inadequate): — 1. Orientation Jesus. The first word we need to say. Jesus. The only word we want to say. Jesus. You are the centre. The centre of everything. Of our lives. Of our ministries. Of our mission. Of our communities. Jesus. You are the centre. The centre around which everything else must orbit, endlessly pulled by the gravity of your love. Lord Jesus, we who know your love cannot but love every person we meet with love that flows from yours. We do not say you ‘call’ us to do this; it is as inevitable as a stone falling. Gravity does not ‘call’ the stone. But falling is easy. Loving is hard. In this broken world, Lord Jesus, falling is very easy, and loving well is very hard. — 2. Context Lord Jesus, we few leaders have gathered to talk with and about our LGBT+ sisters, brothers, friends, neighbours, strangers. People you have died for. People you now live for. People you have always loved. People you now love. We assert (we confess, we believe) that the gravity of your love holds them at least as strongly as it hold us. (And we pray: increase the gravity, Lord—pull them (and us) out of orbit to spiral into you.) We confess (we admit, we bewail) that we have failed and struggled to love adequately, to love as you love. (And we pray: enlarge our imaginations, Lord—expand us until our hearts can embrace them (and the rest of us).) We bewail (we contemn, we abjure) any and every suggestion that they are less worthy of your love or our love than we are. (And we pray: increase our contempt—let those who despise or denigrate the least of these always be hateful to us (every one of us).) — 3. Scripture Lord Jesus, we are wrestling with your law revealed in Scripture, and with each other. We love you so much that we cannot, we dare not, step away from your Word. We love you so much that we cannot, we dare not, pretend that we have mastered Your Word. Wrestle with us until the Day breaks, Lord, we pray. Let us never be satisfied with partial or provisional truths. Wound us as we read so that every step we take is shaped by our wrestling with you. Never let us agree, Lord Jesus, because then we might feel safe substituting our agreement for your Scriptures. Keep us wrestling, keep us fighting, keep us focused on your Word (and on you, the Word). But forgive us, Lord Jesus, when we love Scripture so much that we wound each other,...

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