The modern liberal, progressive mindset in spiritual matters is really clear – we are each our own authority, our own truth and guiding force. We should not be hampered by exterior pressures, controls or authority. We find out own light. Right.
OK – but here’s the thing. A little while ago I spoke to a three people who each told a very similar story. They are all Christians, members of Anglican parishes. Each is also elderly. And each was raised to be homophobic. It was an ordinary part of their culture and upbringing, reinforced no doubt by the church attitudes of the post war era.
All three then reacted mightily and uncomfortably to their church’s openness and welcoming of lesbian and gay parishioners in recent years. It was just not right. All three felt like the church was wrong. Yet, all three stayed within the church, listened to the church and her priests as authority and stuck the course. They did not jump ship to another, less than gay-friendly church (of which there are dog’s plenty).
So each of these lovely people, over many years, met and befriended the occasional ‘gay’ person. They shared communion with them, sat in council with them, worked for the community with them. And in the course of all this – only because they submitted to the higher authority of the church – all three learnt a lot about themselves. And they learnt about their gay sisters and brothers.
Each of these people spoke openly how they had changed, opened their hearts and become better people – not because they wanted to, but because they were directed to, encouraged to – by the actions of their church. One now has an ongoing and deep relationship with her lesbian niece, a woman she had seldom spoken to for decades. For this she thanks the church and curses her own prejudice that forbade this relationship for many years.
So … maybe, just maybe, spiritual authority can be a good thing. And maybe we do not always know what is best for us … just maybe 🙂 Thanks.