There’s something disturbing about playing off trust against audit trails. Up to the 1850’s you could be a doctor in England by self-definition. Today doctors have to go to medical school and pass exams. There’s far more than a bit of paper involved in the healing art, of course, but the paperwork actually increases, not reduces, my trust when I go to the surgery, as well as reminding my doctor of the story so far. Medical standardization mustn’t stifle creative research, or, even more importantly awareness of the patient as a person, but without some standardization we’d be back where we were in the 1850’s.
How vague are the positive values I suggested were the antidote to cultures of fear and intimidation — diversity, equality, respect? Call them anything you like, but
- the logic of the Day of Pentecost implies the Church isn’t meant to be definitively homogenized around any particular culture, but incarnate in many cultures. It takes a whole world truly to know Christ.
- Jesus had strong views on equality: “call no man Father, for you have one Father and you are brothers.” This was no incidental soundbite, but the cornerstone of a new philosophy of leadership that was not optional. Where the institutional Church has not been wholehearted or disciplined at implemeting that philosophy, it has suffered.
- Respect, or the Golden Rule, is the centrepiece of the Sermon on the Mount. Niceness and good intentnions are no kind of substitute for justice. Ask the prophet Amos. His standard is the plumb line, and applying that standard doesn’t happen by accident.
I think the best way of defending the Church is for it to be authentically and recognizably walking in the way of Jesus Christ.
That means putting in serious, intentional work to focus on and apply these simple gospel values, in ways that can be measured. This involves rejecting deceit, self-deception, corruption and manipulation in our life together, in any practical way that presents itself. And a Church which is always being reformed will, by grace, come closer to being what it was called to be. It will be more missionally attractive than one that is content simply to coast on, with occasional kicking and screaming when it’s caught out.