THREE CHEERS FOR THE HERETICS
A group of people I will always feel indebted to are the Isle of Man Heretics. These were a motley group of people with varying levels of attachment to Christianity and the Church. Their origins came in the death of a Bible Study Group. It became clear that something new was needed. So we formed a group to explore a range of issues that most Bible Study Groups do not explore. After one of these meetings, someone commented that a lot of heresy had been spoken that morning. From the on we were 'The Heretics.'
In the time since we have explored the future of the Methodist Church, issues around Dawkins, dialogue with other faiths and since I left I notice the Iraq War has come up a time or three including a presentation by someone who worked there for a time. This group is hardly homogenous. Some regularly attend church, in most cases Methodist although we have an esteemed Anglican. Some do not although in the main they have at some time been involved in the Church. Some have a markedly more liberal theology than others who are even mildly evangelical. One member who attends when on holiday from USA is a liberal Jew. Speakers have included those who are close to Hinduism as well as a Bahai. Indeed there is a treasured international link with the USA which reminds us that the faith scene there is much broader than Shrub in the White House. Some of the issues raised have been rather political and here as in religion I noticed quite a diversity of viewpoints.
What holds 'The Heretics' together is a willingness to openly and confidentially explore issues. That is something that the ministers and preachers among us have appreciated. We are freed from the straitjacket that inevitably exists within most church expressions. Here we are able to think outside the box and dare to question orthodoxies without it being leaked to those who might disapprove.
'Heretics' is not for everyone. For some it means being exposed to uncomfortable ideas but I think that it is about time that more Christians exposed themselves to the complex world in which we live with its varying strands of thought. My greatest dread is a Christianity that retreats to the bunker. Thankfully, 'Heretics' is a reminder of both the need to avoid such a bunker mentality and the possibilities that new horizons can be discerned through genuine exploration.
For nearly three years I have been away from the Isle of Man. From emails I see 'Heretics' is still going strong. I think every circuit could do with such a body. What I would give for such a body to be established here in Devon!
So 'Three Cheers for the Heretics.' And in case any of them are reading this, I trust that my prize when I win the annual 'New Year Predictions Competition' will be a forthnight at the Grand Island Hotel.