There is a good deal of chatter and not a little activity among some evangelicals about “false teachers”and the need to purify and re-reform the church. It is focused of course by the Bishop of New Hampshire’s existence and by the determination of the diocese of New Westminster in Canada to provide liturgical rites for the blessing of same-sex partnerships. Some people talk about the revisionists as preaching another gospel – though I must say Gene Robinson sounds like good ‘ol time religion to me. Last year’s Lambeth Conference was perceived as an exercise in futile avoidance – taking time to listen and hear and understand people with whom we don’t agree when we should be taking stands and opposing false teaching. The activist reasserters (as some in the USA call them) have found a focus for their energies in organising GAFCON, and its sucessors FOCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans) and the new ACNA (Anglican Church of North America)
In one forum recently we were asked for any biblical justification for patiently continuing to be in fellowship with those whose teaching and understanding is very different from what we believeto be the biblical way. I suggested the parable of the Wheat and the Tares. One respondent commented that he thought it was a parable about the world (ie not relevant to the church). But the parable of the Wheat and the Tares is a parable not about the “world” as opposed to the “church”. It is a parable about the coming of the Kingdon. The context of that coming kingdom is the world (Matt 13:38) in which the wheat and tares are sown. There is nowhere else for this drama to be played out. There is no world/church opposition in the teaching of Jesus. The coming of the kingdom demands response and creates crisis (krisis) wherever it is announced. Sometimes that is the streets and sometimes in the synagogue (Luke 4).
It is a characteristic weakness of some evangelicals not to be able to read the parables of the Kingdom without wanting to bring in the safety net of a pure church in a messy world. But the purity and the mess are to be found everywhere – just as Jesus told us they would be. The resolution of the uncertainty only comes at the end of the age – and it is not in our hands.
This parable is a very good biblical and (perhaps importantly, dominical) example of why our officious attempts to do the purifying and sorting out are plain wrong.