An Open Letter to my Church Friends

posted in: Being Human, Justice, Leadership | 3

edit: Chalke, myself and my then boss Krish were interviewed by Christian Today, and I felt his response was disappointing.There is a storify of Tweets here. I ended up reviewing the book for Third Way, if you want my opinion on the book as a whole. At the time of writing/editing, the challenge posed to Hodder/Steve by myself and others, remains ignored.

I’m not normally given to writing open letters – and, indeed, I’m in the middle of a new series on this blog, so the timing is not ideal – but the circumstances and importance of the things I want to write about today mean I felt I should write.

So, here goes, my entry into the Christian blogosphere big time (that is sarcasm) – an open letter, to my Church friends…

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Dear Friends,

I hope this brief note finds you all well. I try not to write open letters, as I don’t think they work, and the certainly aren’t the best way of saying something. This time, though, I’m making an exception.

Bear with me – I’ve a bit of a story to tell.

I got a new job recently, and one of the highlights of it is a long commute, riding through London and catching up on news, reading and communications. One of the things I’ve been reading today is a new book, with a title very close to my heart, and closer still to the thing I’ve been trying to study for the last 18 months or so, and want to write a PhD about. The book is by an author I don’t see eye to eye with, even as I respect his contribution and would love to engage with over beer, pie, and battered table. Steve Chalke. Steve’s new book, ‘Being Human’,  with the engaging subtitle ‘How to become the person you were meant to be’, is released today, published by mainstream publishers Hodder & Stoughton. On one level, Bravo! I’ve been enjoying reading it – though I have questions – and will blog about it soon.

That was the main thing I’ve been reading.

The second thing I read was this very sad article in the National Catholic Reporter, reporting on an event of apology to those who were victims of sexual abuse from the well-known Mennonite Theologian John Howard Yoder. His book, The Politics of Jesus, is one of many, and is one I will read in a new light as these revelations are brought to light.

The NCR brings out some key parts of the Gospel of Jesus – unconditional love, desire for change, the hope of restoration, a recognition of and engagement with the sins of the past – in a way that spoke to me.

So I prayed.

And this is why I wrote this letter. Because, at various points, Steve favourably quotes Yoder. Particularly that book, The Politics of Jesus. And he does it without acknowledging that Yoder is accused of, nay, responsible for, some serious crimes. Crimes that, regardless of your views on a whole range of questions, go right to the heart of who we are and how we are ‘Being Human’. Steve seems to quote and use Yoder’s ideas without remotely referencing these crimes that have come to light.

And so the point of my letter is simple.

Church friends – evangelical, charismatic, liberal, fundamentalist, open, catholic, baptist and everything else – would you consider asking @SteveChalke and @HodderFaith to retract the publication of the book, and edit it to reflect the dehumanising nature of some of the ideas that inform what Steve has written?

Please be clear.

I am only accusing Steve of not knowing some background to a reference for his book – but because of the power and effect of the abuse perpetrated, because of the truth that every human is made in the Image of God and that should not be abused or broken, to have a book about ‘Being Human’ that does not recognise the frailty of humans is a really, really, really, truly unfortunate thing.

I’m going to tweet this to @SteveChalke and @HodderFaith tomorrow.


Would you join me, friends?


Tom

 

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If you’d like to chat about this, or contact me, or ask me to retract it, or similar, then please connect with me via Facebook, Twitter, or a comment.

 

 

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3 Responses

  1. Brian Metzger

    Tom, I believe what Yoder did was despicable. When we write, is there way to use references to his work or do feel it is all voided by his actions? And where do we draw that line with an author/scholars work? Can I referece Ladd without going over his list of sins? I am asking because I am genuinely trying to navigate my way through future writing and preaching.

    • Tom Creedy

      Hey, Brian, sorry it’s taken so long for me to respond.

      I think what I’m saying, and was trying to say, is that we should read everything, think about everything, but bear in mind what we are quoting based on who we are quoting it to. So I might use Yoder, in either direction, when doing an academic paper on political theology. But if I was preaching, or writing a popular book that I intend to be widely read, I would not do so unless no-one else was saying what he was saying, or I could footnote/caveat it with the undermining.

      For me, the fact that Chalke quoted him, in a book on inclusion and being human, without noting that his theology/practice didn’t line up (to put it mildly) represents a form of lazy, unjust scholarship that I’d want to avoid.

      For example, I don’t direct people to Gagnon lightly (Because in my view he can be pretty unpleasant) but on some technical points he is incredibly illuminating. Balancing these two things is really difficult – another reason why I’m glad I’m not a pastor of a local church!

      Hope to tease out the nuances of this over a drink or two next time I’m in your country.

      Tom

  2. Karol

    Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like
    you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive
    the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is
    excellent blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

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