(originally posted March 24, 2011 for “Reflecting Faith” @ Creedible.com)
I was recently a part of the leadership team of a gathering of seminarians for my denomination. Each member of the leadership team was asked to share some thoughts as we reflected on where we hope our denomination is going. As I spoke to the group, it became clear to me that I needed to share my thoughts more broadly and engage in some dialogue across denominations and faith traditions. So here are my thoughts.
As I think about this question of “Where are we going?”, I thought of four new gospels that I hope we continue to value as we grow and go into our future. I would hope we continue to value the “Gospel of Inclusion”. And for me that means a going beyond the question of the importance of gay folk in our midst. In our current discourse, the same gender loving community and their allies have been the latest to be affirmed among us. And to that affirmation I say AMEN. However, as I look out from my vantage point, there are great numbers of others whose difference challenges the status quo. Those whose walk and talk come up against our walk and talk. And our task as we proclaim this gospel will certainly be to with sincerity and integrity honoring our ancestors of faith who risk in a capacious spirit to enlarge our tent.
The second gospel is the “Gospel of Relevance”. In many ways, I have been both shocked and amazed at how few of my colleagues haven’t yet taken advantage of the technology available to us to enhance our witness and presence. As with any ministry tool, its effectiveness depends on one’s creativity in usage. For example, some of us are experimenting with blogs and vlogs, facebook and tweeter, while others haven’t enough a website up for the ministry or wireless access at the church. And still, others of us haven’t yet gotten the report that the way we use to do things is not quite measuring up today. Church of old has died! We are in the 21st century. None of us are arriving to church in horse drawn carriages anymore!
The third gospel is the “Gospel of Authenticity”. People are looking for real faith folk. They are fed up with the fake, the imposter, the disingenuous. And as I spend time with non-church goers or those who don’t attend a community of faith on the regular, the comments and feedback I get centers on this dynamic. They say to me, “I like you and I like what and how you are saying what you are saying. However, when I go to my Mama’s church, the people there are just pretending to be religious, like wearing a mask that gets put on for Sundays.” This sentiment, if we who are religious folk would be honest, we know all too well. I believe we’ve got to value being and living authentic lives, not perfect, superficial characters in a soap opera television drama. Folk who celebrate and sorrow, folk who master some things while struggling with other things, folk who value diversity while owning one’s prejudices. I think we all want authenticity that is seeking to be in relationship with others in significant, deep, appropriate and profound ways.
The last of my four gospels is the “Gospel of Justice, Care and Compassion”. One of the distinguishing features of our faithful witness is being threatened by the bottom line. I’ve have observed for some time now, the decrease in our bold and prophetic voice on a number of issues in recent years. It has been an important mark of faith for me that we’ve been near the front of the line calling for justice as it related to African Americans, Women Rights, Education, Workers Rights, and a host of other causes and movements. We have often spoken our truth to power. We’ve been in the struggle with people living with HIV/AIDS, we walked on the line with migrant workers as they struggle for rights they so deserved. We’ve been loud and proud to stand with the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised in times past. However, today feels very different. We seemed to have gone strangely silent now. After some rather bold statements in support of a number of controversial issues, a number of congregations and organizations chose to leave our body taking their resources with them. In my opinion, now is not the time to step back. Now is not the time to go silent. Now is the time to go boldly into our future with bright hope that the world will become what we make it become. The forces of evil will never defeat the faithful. We never error as we defend and support the least of these.