Peter Lynas, NI Director of Evangelical Alliance, in his new year message (January 2) set out many of the issues, nationally and internationally which have been alive, sometimes controversial over the past year or so.
In his review of the past year, there is little I can argue with, save to say that the way we discuss those contentious matters such as abortion, civil equal marriage and the relationship between Church and State, could be improved.
Too often, these are not conversations, but rather heated rhetoric, and in the nature of rhetoric, the issues never become the subject of respectful conversations.
I suppose the place to start with is with those who feel that they must impose their strongly held religious beliefs on the rest of the Assembly, and sometimes inappropriately have no moral qualms in imposing their views on the rest of the Assembly and blocking legislation which commands a majority.
Having these discussions or conversations is an art in itself, requires good facilitation and finally an agreed set of outcomes.
These outcomes might be modest at first, such as better awareness of respective positions, but could be built on, after relationships and trust have been built, to tackle those matters where religious belief conflicts with corresponding secular opinions.
Like Peter, I pray for fresh encounters with Jesus in the coming year; in doing so I hope that we will not shirk those difficult and sensitive issues which beset our day, but rather to remember that Jesus in his day dealt in a brave, forthright way with those issues, many then hidden and the subject of much prejudice, in a manner which surely must be a guiding light for us.
However, we might need help with how we do it.
A Happy and Hopeful New Year to all.
Colin Flinn, Belfast BT5