What is wrong with the church?

‘Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite, for he is thy brother; thou shall not abhor an Egyptian, because thou wast a stranger in his land.’ — Holy Bible

‘Political correctness = Church in the Dark Ages. If you don’t follow the rules they burn you.’ — Paulo Coelho

‘God loves all her children, even her straight ones.’ — protester in DC

‘Yes, I believe the words of the Lord to Mary Magdalene to be his most radical utterance. We are family – all of us. We belong in God’s family. There are no outsiders. All are insiders.’ — Archbishop Desmond Tutu

‘Many years ago I was driven to the conclusion that the two major causes of most emotional problems among evangelic Christians are these: the failure to understand, receive, and live out God’s unconditional grace and forgiveness; and the failure to give out that unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace to other people.’ — David Seamands

Listening to the discussion that has been festering for years now in the Anglican Church on homosexuality and women priests, especially that which I have heard in the last few days, I am taken back to the Middle Ages: arcane theological discussions on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, the burning of heretics at the stake.

What is sorely lacking in the church today is grace.

In What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey discuses a prostitute who to earn the money for her drug habit hired out her two-year-old daughter to men desiring kinky sex. She made more money from her daughter for an hour than she could make in a night, even on a good night. You cannot sink much lower than that in depravity. To try and help her she was asked had she ever thought of turning to the church for help. Her reaction was one of disbelief, were she to turn to the church they would make her feel even worse about herself than she already did as she would not be made welcome.

She was right, she would not have been made welcome.

In The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho, Athena who is searching for spiritual enlightenment is turned away from a part of the church service because she had recently been divorced by her estranged husband. What is more important, compliance with the rules of the Catholic Church than welcoming those in search of Truth before God?


In What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey describes growing up in the Deep South where Blacks were barred from the White-only churches. Now those same churches are thriving with vibrant Black congregations, the difference being all are welcome no matter what the colour of their skin.


At the weekend I heard on the radio a priest complaining about the relaxed attitude of the church, allowing sinners through its doors who had been divorced and dismissing this as political correctness. Clearly he had not come upon grace, let alone been touched by it. We all make mistakes. People marry the wrong person. Are they to spend the rest of their lives in purgatory or are they to be given a second chance? Who was this priest in any case to sit in judgment, is that not reserved for a a higher authority?

Was Jesus not a shepherd? Did he not speak of one lost sheep and when found that one lost sheep was valued more than all the other sheep?

Why the fuss about females in the Church? Are half the human race to be excluded? Or more than half if we exclude gays too?

God is not male or female, God is. God is unknowable. It is only the arrogance of a male dominated society that gives God a male appearance and deigns to call God Him.


Jesus surrounded himself with women. Mary Magdalene was one of his key disciples. It was the women who remained by his side when he was deserted by the cowardly men.

I have come across homosexuals who are tearing themselves to pieces because they feel excluded from a church that means so much to them. What self-appointed right has a handful of bigots to exclude them?

I meet Christians, that is followers of the Church not of Christ, who tell me how they go on Christian holidays, attend Christian conventions. Is this meant to impress me, if yes, then it falls flat on its face. If I go on holiday, or attend meetings, it is, I hope, to meet interesting people, to expand my horizons, not to reinforce my existing prejudices. They listen to Christian music. I listen to good music.

I have heard speakers in church brag of how they preyed on vulnerable students far from home. They were praised. I hung my head in shame. Others told of success in converting Muslims. Then there is the appalling Alpha Course, bums on seats. Has the Church descended to the competition ideology of a Wal-Mart?

The Catholic Church in the guise of the Pope has been quick to offer a lifeline to those Anglicans who lack grace but believe in dogma (they call it tradition). They will be offered an enclave within the Catholic Church, they do not even have to comply with the rules. Amazing how easily dogma can be set aside when it suits. Smacks of hypocrisy to me.


Ritual is important because it gives a sense of meaning, but ritual should never be confused with dogma.

Did Jesus not say: Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Did Jesus himself not stick two fingers up to the church authorities of the day? Was it not he who walked into the Temple and kicked over the tables of the money changers and drove them out with a knotted rope?

Jesus excluded no one: women, children, prostitutes, tax collectors, criminals were all welcome at his side, no one was turned away.

Is the church any different today than seven hundred years ago when in the south of France the Cathars were burnt at the stake for offering a more enlightened Christianity that did not require the intervention of priests? The first Crusades were not against Muslims in the Holy Land, they were against fellow Christians in the south of France.

One of the most moving sermons I heard was from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on a trip to London, and I am very grateful that he kindly gave me a copy. In that sermon everyone was welcome, Blacks and Whites, Gays and Straights.


Would Jesus not look at the Church today and say: It has been a very long time since they allowed me in there.

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4 Responses to “What is wrong with the church?”

  1. danceswithcrayons Says:

    Thank you Keith. Enjoyed reading this article, very much. I hear you!

    “Would Jesus not look at the Church today and say: It has been a very long time since they allowed me in there.”

    What kids are taught sometimes through religion, is to hide away the beauty and goodness of their own true nature. Because perhaps, this child is a square peg that does not fit into the round hole. Therefore, must mean the child is not ‘good enough’. When this happens, growth stunts – some turn away from the spiritual connection (I do not view spiritual connection – faith – as a religious connection. To me, it is NOT one and the same thing.). Growing, cultivating all of that goodness and then, harvesting can be stunted for a while, or perhaps, an entire life.

    Humans are imperfect yes, and I think, that’s part of the beauty. Also to remember, that everyone errs. Asking for, and receiving forgiveness provides the chance to begin again.

    Some inventions are the direct result of mistakes, are they not? The Happy Accidents of life!

    Thankfully, attitudes are changing. For instance, your referral to the Dark Ages when if one did not comply, they were burned.

    It is important not to give up and not to feel alone.

    But sometimes, people become so distracted in arguing to change each other’s opinions, that the original issue still remains.

    So, I have surrendered to the dogma fighting.

    The permission to forge ahead, becoming who we are, eventually comes from inside the individual. For many, after fighting the good fight, then at last – freeing herself or himself.

    Much Love, Jane : )

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