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Health warning

I’m writing this as something of a health warning to those who, like me, might wish to put forward the view that science and Biblical faith are entirely compatible – indeed, that the ‘two books’ of God’s word and God’s works, speak in harmony.

The series of events to be described took place over a period of some eighteen months at a Christadelphian church at Dorridge in the UK West Midlands, a congregation to which I’d belonged for some seventeen years, active in a wide variety of capacities. I’d voiced the view that evolutionary biology was not necessarily in conflict with faith, and that evolution was the likely mechanism by which God brought into being the diversity of life in the natural world.

The events began with a delegation, without my knowledge, to the church committee (in breach of Matthew 18:15) to complain about my expressing these views, and continued with my exclusion from active participation in the congregation; with deliberate concealment of information from a meeting of the members, and a prolonged period during which the committee insisted it wanted to discuss ‘certain matters’ with me – but couldn’t specify what they were.

The situation was exacerbated by the fact my principal critic was at the time Secretary of the congregation. Once a resolution has been agreed, with most committee members agreeable to my resuming participation, he instead of honouring the majority view broke ranks, stepped down from his post and, refusing to discuss his differences with me on a calm personal basis, circulated a six page tirade against me just before a further members’ meeting with the result being a tied vote on my participation.

Matters then became worse, with a ballot held that was an object lesson in bias. A statement demanding draconian restrictions on my participation was circulated, and the item referring to me was sandwiched between sections of text with which few if any would disagree – including obviously fine sentiments about unity and a section on the denomination’s statement of faith itself. Constructing the statement in this way almost guaranteed that most would vote ‘yes’ even if they would not vote for my exclusion in isolation. And of course the ploy worked. Just to make sure it would, the ballot was imposed in a hurry – I wasn’t informed until after the papers had been sent out and was given no chance to put my case before people started to return their ballot forms.

There followed a threat of expulsion, only to be followed by a realisation that that could break up the congregation; a letter to the members, essentially subjecting me to indefinite exclusion from active participation; and eventually to my exclusion from any active role for at least a year. This evidently didn’t satisfy my detractors, who proceeded to monitor posts I made online, and to ‘lurk’ (i.e. read others' posts without contributing or revealing their presence) on forums to which I occasionally contributed. Their efforts were rewarded when they were able to lock on to posts where I’d advocated giving believers of other denominations ‘the benefit of the doubt’ and treating them as genuine Christians – itself not an unusual view among Christadelphians but enough for my critics to stir up a further campaign against me. Again the committee capitulated, and proposed my expulsion from the congregation. Their supporting statement criticised in emotive terms and with patently false allegations the alleged content of some of my posts and entries on my website,. A meeting held to discuss the matter revealed my critics in their true colours – with the creation/evolution issue clearly to the fore. One elderly and frail member was wheeled in to vote against me without really knowing what was going on; another, soon to leave the church in disgust, described the meeting as ‘like a lynch mob’. The meeting voted to put my expulsion to a further ballot.

At which point, enough was enough. Eighteen or more years wasted; people I’d known for almost twenty, in one case thirty, years turning to enmity. I left.

So if you're of the view that science - including evolutionary biology - and Biblical faith can go together, as I am, be forewarned. It could be tough, and it could wreck your trust in Christian human nature.

And if you're already facing attacks on this front, do email me at [email protected]

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