Saturday, 17 March 2012

"The Holy Spirit is saying..." Is he really?

I was just about to put digit to keyboard (it would have been pen to paper years ago) to reflect on the modern propensity for claiming to be prophetic and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through our own personal agendas, when I read Gary Jenkins' excellent blog on the same subject. We were both at the Southwark Diocesan Synod last week, and both spoke in favour of adopting the Anglican Covenant, and both found ourselves on the losing side. We both heard a number of people claiming that the Covenant would 'limit the prophetic voice of the church'.

Reflecting on the number of times I have heard that or a similar phrase it seems to me that the word 'prophetic' is used nowadays to give authority to any innovation that flies in the face of tradition, reason or scripture. Whereas at one time it was charismatic evangelicals that would speak about prophecy more easily, now it is liberals who claim to be speaking prophetically when they speak in favour of, for instance, same-sex marriage.

Likewise, the voice of Holy Spirit is claimed to give weight to similar innovations. Reading the Acts of the Apostles it is clear that the Holy Spirit did move the church in a radically new direction when it was agreed that the Gentiles were also included in God's covenant along with the Jews, and that full church membership should be accorded Gentiles without them having to be circumcised. But today's claims that the Holy Spirit may be speaking through the church to embrace the personal agendas of our liberal brothers and sisters seems to be verging on a breaking of the 3rd Commandment: 'You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.'

We must all be careful not to claim the Holy Spirit's authority for our own agendas, and not to treat prophecy lightly. It seems to me, reading acts, that the Holy Spirit spoke to the church when Christians were together in prayer, and often in fasting. he seemed to speak more about mission than anything else. Let's listen and learn.

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