Beyond My Comfort Zone

Beyond My Comfort Zone

Written on 11/18/2019

Author: Shiao Chong

As of the time of writing (October), our fundraising efforts toward our $450,000 goal have broken the $400,000 mark for the third year in a row. Thank you all for your generosity. The more money we raise, the less we need to draw from ministry shares. Your strong support shows you understand why our denomination needs a collective forum that fairly represents our diverse viewpoints.

To be a fair forum, however, means we occasionally publish viewpoints that may be unpopular to some. Synod 1998 noted that one of The Banner’s responsibilities (reaffirmed by Synod 2015) is to present to readers “the issues pertinent to the life of the church in a way that shows the diverse positions held within the church and encourages biblical and Reformed thinking about these issues.” To fulfill this responsibility, we are granted the freedom to “permit people of the church to voice their views and reactions even though some of these views may be unacceptable to others in the church” (Acts of Synod 1998, pp. 288-290).

In fact, I have published articles that even I do not fully agree with in order to fulfill our role as a forum for different viewpoints. If I only publish articles I fully agree with, then I would be guilty of turning The Banner into my personal megaphone.

An example of such an article is in the December issue and can be read here. To fulfill our role as a forum, I have taken the risk of publishing an unsolicited article written by a sex offender. I stand in solidarity with survivors. I don’t think the voices of offenders are morally equivalent to those of survivors. However, the church is called to offer Christ’s reconciliation to all, not just to survivors. As much as the article goes beyond my personal comfort level, I have to fulfill my responsibilities. Hence, we have made it anonymous to protect those affected.

Please do remember that all our articles are never meant to be the last word on anything. They are instead meant to stimulate thought and discussion.

The Advent season reminds us through Christmas carols and Bible readings that Jesus is the Son of David. Though King David was “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14), he was a murderer and a sexual abuser (as Bathsheba was helpless to refuse a powerful king). It must be noted that David faced serious consequences for his sins even as God showed him grace. But the fact that God did show David grace and even used David’s lineage for his salvation purposes means the church cannot simply ignore the offender’s need for God’s grace. We need to wrestle with how to be ambassadors of Christ’s reconciliation without unduly risking people’s safety or revictimizing those who have been abused.

Personally, I am very uncomfortable with the author’s suggestion of possibly reintegrating those who have offended into a church community. I would want strong assurances that they will not be near persons who are vulnerable. But God’s mission does stretch our comfort zones. If Jesus is the physician who calls sinners and not the righteous (Matt. 9:12-13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32), then the church is a hospital for sinners, not a club for the righteous. We have to wrestle with how to practically embody that vision while protecting the vulnerable.

I might not have the answers. But it is my duty as the editor to open conversations and ask the necessary questions.

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