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A New Minister Compromises
By : Ian Forest-Jones (Hurstville, NSW)
Rating : Average Rating : 8.00 From 2 Voter(s)
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I just committed my first compromise as a new minister, and I thought that you would all like to know about it. This past Sunday, the RCL assigned the story of Hannah as one of the readings for worship. Hannah, as you know, is childless, but, in her despair and sorrow, she cries out to God. He hears her prayer and she gives birth to the great prophet Samuel. This is a great story, on so many levels, and just bursting with sermon possibilities.

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Comments / Feedback
Graham Mann
Ian, thankyou for a very provoking article.

If I had a blocked coronary artery, should I not, like Job, simply accept the circumstances of my (almost concluded) life as God intentioned for me?
No. In this modern day and age I do not accept my circumstances and nor do I wrestle (perhaps because my angina will be too bad) with God to come to a fuller understanding of myself, God and the world in which we live. I force God’s hand for healing through heart surgery. Does this reflect a humility before God and a holy acceptance of circumstances? Does this course of treatment allow God to be God and to work miracles in our lives? I presume your answer, on all accounts, will also be no.

How is plumbing for my heart different to plumbing for a uterus? Or how is hormone replacement for an unhealthy pancreas (diabetic) different to hormone replacement for an unhealthy ovary? The mystery of life remains so much more than biological chemistry – or for that matter arterial plumbing.

Pastoral concern and theological imperative run parallel, not in opposition. Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, yet by any natural reading of the story she was ‘guilty’ of the charge and should have been punished according to law.
Michael Bullard
The grief of not having a child is a far greater pain in a person's heart (and in God's heart) than your wrestling with issues of pastoral integrity. Get over it and weep with those who weep!
Dennis John Ryle
Ian has exposed the vulnerability of the pastoral heart that seeks to be adequately equipped to guide a flock through the dilemmas of contemporary techniques and solutions to ancient pain. Ian, your awareness of your vulnerability is where your integrity is revealed. There's no easy answer. Perhaps salvation is to be found in the questions (which incidentally seem to resonate with the sound of weeping). I laud Ian for the courage to put it all out there - but I hope Ian has access to a good peer/mentor relationship where he can continue to explore these issues. All ministers, whether new or old, need such.
Dale White
During my minstry I have seen dozens of christian young couples welcome a child into their family with the assitance of IVF. There is great rejoicing and thanks to God! Usually only those close to the family know the long, emotional and difficult process that preceded the much longed-for birth. There may be some ethical issues surrounding IVF - but I certanly wouldn't be preaching IVF as a demonstration of a lack of faith - any more than I would against chemotherapy or panadol!

On the matter of compromise I have often - perhaps too often - held back certain things in my preaching in order not to offend or hurt others unnecessarilly. I don't have to tell the congregation everything I am thinking (that would scare some people witless). There is a thing called tact and another called care. It would only be compromise if I genuinely believed God wanted me to speak up about something and then I did not.
Ian Forest-Jones
I'm sorry guys, but I did not know that comments had been posted to this article --I will have to talk to Craig about this!

Graham: In my mind, there is a big difference between seeking treatment for a blocked coronary artery, which could end my life, and forcing a pregnancy, which involves another's life. IVF seems to go a step further than treatment, especially considering the psychological trauma of the treatment and the potential for multiple births. I will have to explore the ethics more deeply, but I'm not sure that IVF qualifies as a "treatment" in the same way as surgery for a blocked artery does.

Michael: Of course I grieved with this woman and of course we as a congregation prayed with her. I am simply pointing out to my colleagues that I recognise that I did not counsel her adequately in all the related aspects. How can I grow unless I recognise my failings?

Dennis: Unfortunately, the way that this situation progressed did not leave me opportunity to take advantage of my support. This article ended up being a catalyst for much of my processing of the issue.

Dale: I was not so naïve to preach IVF as a demonstration of a lack of faith, but it was an interesting sermon! I have tried to guide my congregation into becoming a community, with little success. Thus, such a sermon was important to help them appreciate the multiple dimensions of our faith and our life together. It has been a while since, but I believe that it was received well.

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