As far from danger as from fear

When Methodist clergy get together, one of things we do is sing! And the Wesley hymn, 'Captain of Israel's host', is often on our lips. A two-verse hymn, its final lines still have the power to make my heart swell:

As far as from danger as from fear,

While love, Almighty love, is near.

We are told that we live in an Age of Fear, but is that anything new? The current stand-off between Trump and Kim Jung-Un reminds us of the terror of nuclear oblivion faced by our parents and grandparents. And there must be a reason why 'Fear not' is uttered over a hundred times in the Bible.

Fear is such a powerful emotion: for those who live with anxiety disorders, fear can feel like iron chains preventing any physical or emotional movement. When exploited by unscrupulous leaders, it can drive otherwise reasonable people to engage in mindless acts of violence and terror. Fear is often what lies behind so much prejudice and hatred, creating a reality that is hard to counter.

The new Methodist and Wesleyan movement, Dignity and Worth, draws inspiration from Scripture, especially 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.

The struggle for full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people is so often a fight against fear.

There is the fear in others, those in our Church who have yet to encounter an openly-gay Christian and whose theology and church life has been shaped by a long tradition of anti-gay doctrine which owes more to patriarchal culture than Biblical reflection. They have been painted a picture of creatures who are insatiable, immoral, barely people, and certainly not the sort of folk good Methodists associate themselves with. Inclusion begins with conversation, examining the language we u