Are you on the same field of play?

Mike Ovey used to draw a triangle on the whiteboard, he would label each side as follows:  No denial of unity, no denial of distinction, no denial of unity. Stray over any of the lines and you are outside of the “field of play” when you come to the Trinitarian orthodoxy.

David Peterson used to do something similar when it came to  the question of male amd female leadership roles to take account of those passages that talk in terms of male elders and women not exercising teaching authority over men (1 Tim 2-3) and those that clearly show women speaking and being involved in leadership (1 Cor 11, Romans 16).  He explained that within the boundaries is the field of play, space for discussion and learning from one another. 

The point is that if you are on the field of play, it doesn’ mean you have an exclusive and exhaustive handle on truth and right practice. So if people are on the same field, discuss, debate and learn from one another (in other words, don’ get drawn into the name calling and mud- slinging that we have at times seen within the recent EFS debate).

However, be aware, especially if you are sitting close to one of the boundary lines that others may be on the other side of the boundary. In effect, they are on a different playing field. Watch out that you don’ try and co-opt them as allies in your debate when they are in fact playing another game.

What do I mean? Well, when it comes to male and female roles in the family and the church, it would be easy for some to react against perceived wrongs towards women and a denial of gifts by siding with radical feminists.  The mistake here is that you may be siding with peope who are less concerned for God’s glory and the use of all gifts for the building up of the church and more concerned with pursuing personal fulfilment and fighting a battle of the sexes.

On the other hand, complementarians – especially within the Church of England may co-opt allies on the issue of women’s ordination and women bishops from the Anglo- Catholic tradition.  They seem to have the same views on the matter but in fact they are playing a completely different game because underpinning their argument is the belief that the priest represents Christ at the Eucharist and therefore has to be male like Christ. A good conservative Evangelical doesn’t want to go there!

So before you co-opt an ally, make sure you are on the same field.

If I can be a little more personal still. I do wonder when Evangelical Anglicans are going to stop trying to find allies in their denomination who are in fact playing a different game and realise that their true friends and allies, who are on the same field of play are other evangelicals outside of their denomination?