Many years ago when the earth was young and I was a very green cleric I stood up infant of my new congregation and told them that I regarded Church as a place where secrets were taboo and that whilst some things needed to be kept as confidential, that was the way I intended to work whilst with them.
Over the years this has brought some great challenges to the way I worked and there have been times when colleagues have told me that it is a policy that, "Whilst great in principle is dangerous in practice!" There have been times when I have also been cautioned regarding the fact that I will speak the truth in love and unless faced with something that needs not to be told, will tell the truth. Time and time again friends have told me that being open and honest is a dangerous path to tread - but regardless of their council I have continued as best I can down my chosen path.
The problem is that whilst I know many in church leadership who operate on the same principles as me and yet, if what I hear from others is even half true, the practice of many on the other side of the altar rail is quite markedly different!
It is a sad to say this but it seems that many in Church are pretty poor at telling the truth and the rumour mills and doublespeak factories are, in some church congregations at least, working overtime. James (chapter three) says this of the tongue:
"A small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.
Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!
Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?
Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs?
No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring."
I have been greatly challenged by the secrets and the potential divisions I have been made aware of recently - is it any wonder we struggle to build our congregations if we cannot be open and honest with those whom we call brother and sister?
How can we hold before us the image of the invisible God and offer up curses against them?
How can we sit in our pews and stand in our pulpits if we have more faces than Janus?
God calls us to an integrity of living and the pursuit of a character that seeks to follow and emulate Jesus, the Christ.
May those who have ears, hear and those who have tongues use them wisely and for the edification of the whole Church and their own church families in particular.
And a word of encouragement to those who minister and have told me of their struggles: Never lose sight of who it is that vindicates us and intercedes for you. Truly we have one who stands between God and man for us.
Hallelujah or what?