'Test of Christianity is how we live our lives, not what we claim to believe'
MY FAITH:THERE ARE always faith questions. We can explore or ignore them. I chose the former. I studied theology for many years, first for a Bachelor of Divinity and then studying issues in moral theology as a postgraduate.
I was led to study theology in the mid-1980s when I realised I had the faith of a child, with the questions of an adult. I was trying to make sense of an inherited faith and being a woman in a very male clerical church. This is still a difficult task!
After years of study, I realised I can have faith in the person of Christ without necessarily a similar faith in the institution. The Jesus of the gospels is very radical and challenging, someone who didn’t discriminate between men and women, young and old, or any ethnic group.
Jesus’s discipleship was a discipleship of equals, as St Paul made clear. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).” The early movement was based on local communities who found Jesus’s message meaningful for their lives. House churches, usually run by women, hosted the communal meal.
The church’s mission is to make sense of the gospel in the light of the lived experience of its members. The mission should be one of service to the gospel not of power and centralised control.
The institutional church has often been an obstacle to faith rather than its servant. I am not sure Jesus would recognise the institution that claims him as its founder! The institutional church and Christ are not the same.
The hierarchical, centralised church has little meaning in the lives of many of the baptised, who find a meaningful faith in their local faith communities, a model similar to the earlier Christian communities.
This is where I find myself and my faith today: within groups who pray together, accompany each other in life’s ups and downs, try to make sense of the gospel message in the light of the “signs of the times”, and strive to apply the gospel message of new life to their daily struggles. The insights of many silenced theologians, now over 100, nourish my soul. The ultimate test of Christianity is how we live our lives, rather than what we claim to believe.
GINA MENZIESis a theologian and lecturer in medical ethics