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[Names of 8 young people I taught in Bible school]  

I’m sure you’ll be aware of the tension in [XXXX] meeting around the subject of creation and In essence, nearly a year ago I suggested at Bible school and in a Sunday talk that I thought God probably used natural, gradual processes of development to bring about His design for the world we live in and for us within it ( if you want to know why I think that). Some members of the meeting think that view is unacceptable and one or two have been very vocal about it, insisting that I’m silenced. To cut a long story short, they persuaded the meeting to ban me from taking an active part, including teaching you in Bible school or the discussion group, speaking or presiding. After long discussions it was agreed to lift the ban back in October, but one person insisted on pressing the issue strongly, resulting in a lot of upset, a split vote, and the ban on me being extended, with no end point as yet. Beyond that, this isn’t the time to rake through the history (though I’ll give you a URL with the facts if you really want them).

I think it’s really sad that people react as they have done to me, though I admit that I ought to have anticipated such a reaction and put things across more carefully (in hindsight using the ‘e’ word, evolution, wasn’t a brilliant idea). I passionately believe that the evidence of the natural world and the evidence of the Bible must be compatible, because God is behind both. I also believe that the founder of the Christadelphians, John Thomas, was right in quoting this advice: “Investigate everything you believe - if it is the truth it cannot be injured thereby; if error, the sooner it is correct the better.”

That said, whether you agree with me or not, please don’t judge the people who do take a ‘fundamentalist’ view, wanting to read Genesis literally. I don’t question the genuineness of their Christianity, and I’d ask them not to question mine. They care about what they believe, as I do, and sometimes defending a particular view of one part of the Bible, especially one held for many years, leads people to neglect the most important things, like love and forgiveness, and to treat others very badly indeed.

The arguments, the harshness at [XXXX] over the last ten months must have been a disheartening spectacle to you. It’s been devastating for Viv and for me – it’s demoralising after 37 years to lose your friends and be told you’re unfit to take an active part in your church. I’ve thought long and hard about you, and about the effect this episode might have had on your view of the Christian faith and the Christadelphians in particular. I’m sorry we (and I mean all of us) have let you down, and Jesus down, by not handling things better. Please try and look behind our failures as Christians and see the Christ, who is really what matters. Please also reflect that if I didn’t think Christian faith, and the Christadelphian take on it, were important and worth struggling with, I’d have left long ago. Part of that faith is recognising the obligation to forgive and work for reconciliation: it’s hard, but I am trying to do that and I hope others are too. I wanted to delay this letter till I could tell you we’ve obeyed that obligation: we’re not there yet, but I’m still hoping. We owe it to you as well as to Jesus.

Needless to say I’d be very happy to talk about science and faith, or anything else for that matter, with any or all of you: it won’t be in a formal Bible school session, but informally and privately. These aren’t things on which it’s wise to be dogmatic, and I don’t want anyone to take my views on board without question – challenge them, probe them, test them against the Bible, for truth is invincible in the end.

The obvious question: after all this, would I still want you to be baptised? Yes. Because baptism is first and foremost into Christ, not the Christadelphians; it’s a commitment to Him, in trust that He’s big enough and strong enough and captivating enough and loving enough to overcome all the tensions, arguments, barriers, exclusion, humiliation and plain cruelty that we visit on each other. And that however much we screw up, He’s still there. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote ‘’Love changes everything....” He was more right than he knew.

Thank you for reading


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