Trust is the stuff of relationships. Without it marriages fail, businesses collapse and nations disintegrate. Trust is not the same as agreement, but it is an expression of a will to work together and respect one another. It can never be taken for granted. It should not be presumed upon. It is something we need to rediscover.
Rebuilding confidence needs a fresh commitment if churches are to avoid going the way of disintegrating European states. The trust we need has to be trust earned as well as trust given, trust offered, not just trust demanded. Fundamentally it must arise out of the trust God has placed in us and the trust we are called to place in him.
It means Church leadership not giving up in the struggle to avoid being defensive when their sincerity is questioned or they are wrongly blamed. It means their being open, accepting a share of responsibility for our malaise and taking the Church into their confidence. Rebuilding trust requires loyalty from congregations and individuals. It means reading Crosslink, participating in debates, praying and paying one's way.
Every section of the Church needs to seek change by responsible participation and indicate good faith by basic expressions of loyalty. Presbyterian churches who made budget contributions a voluntary matter and not a church responsibility need to re-examine their commitment. Those who decided not to get Crosslink for their parish need to think carefully of the implications of isolation. These are not ways to change the church.
Others need to listen to what these protests have been trying to say. We need to listen to the voice of silence as well as that of more strident concern. Serious talking is needed for numbers who feel their faith has been presumed upon, and who ask why they should support a structure which seems unresponsive. They themselves need to accept they are sinners as well as sinned against.
There are many things to be done. We need to be a church of seekers and believers, a place which encourages faith, which affirms diversity and gives expression to unity, a place which sees conversion as part of life, and mission of all kinds as a responsibility for all, a place which helps make it possible to live the Christian life. We need to be inspired again by the life and teaching of Jesus. We need to be less surprised about sharing in the worldwide church and its mission, and more committed to the needs of the society we are placed in. We need to feel that money spent is money well spent. We need a new Evangelicalism and a new Ecumenism. The housekeeping of a rebuilt trust is, however, the necessary foundation.
John Roxborogh is Head of Department of Mission Studies, Bible College of New Zealand. He was previously minister at Kelburn and Brooklyn in Wellington and from 1983 to 1990 on the overseas staff of the Council for Mission as a lecturer at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.