Church can't only be about comfort and agreement

Wesley J. Wildman and Stephen Chapin Garner writing for the Alban Institute:

The first great test of the liberal-evangelical church, and of your moderate and radical Christian faith, occurs when you face conflict and difference in your community. Can you sit next to someone who will vote oppositely to you on the question of gay marriage and still move forward together to celebrate Communion?

Can you participate in a Bible study or a faith discussion group and genuinely strive to understand in depth the person who has a different view of salvation through Christ than you do? It is so easy to shut down in the face of such disagreements. But that is when you and the church both lose. Church can't be only about comfort and agreement, and that is doubly so for the liberal-evangelical church, with its Christ-centered commitment to radical inclusiveness and the principle of agape love. Divine love shines when you stay connected, especially when it feels like a major effort to do so. Strive for the spiritual maturity to place love ahead of personal comfort and your church's witness will flourish.

The second great test is whether you will commit yourself to the practices that build up the church and your faith. In particular, will you look for educational opportunities within your congregation and strive to deepen your understanding of your faith? Will you encourage your church to centralize practices such as the Eucharist that bind differently minded people together in the name of Christ? It takes work to learn, and it is often uncomfortable to have our existing beliefs broadened and to make new discoveries. But committing to the journey of learning is part of discipleship and it can be incredibly exciting if you stick with it.

Read the whole article. Do you agree with the authors that a laity that is both liberal and evangelical constitutes a great swath of the Church, yet feels lonely and disenfranchised?

Comments (4)

I see that people can worship and work together if both are allowed to be where they are on issues - when one group says my way or the highway on any issue - the other group feels pushed out. Worship styles are more difficult to reconcile than issues of conservative or liberal positions. If I like a solidly low church service and you like smells and bells or I I like medieval chants and Mozart motets and you like praise music -- we will be less able to have a meaningful time of worship together. Today's feast of James de Koven shows us a split that is harder to span even to this day.

I stumbled on the meaning of liberal-evangelical, but eventually the authors defined as "Christ-centered commitment to radical inclusiveness and the principle of agape love."

I'm not sure the authors are saying parishioners believe they are disenfranchised -- it's more like the authors are saying stop acting like you are, and stop turning tail and leaving/shutting down when things get messy.

I tripped on Jim's use of the word "lonely." What the authors write is "If we have a dream for liberal and evangelical laity, it would be for you to know that you are not alone." Learning that you are not the only one gives you courage to tell your story so that it may encourage others. Feeling lonely doesn't encourage action does it?

I kind of like what these guys are saying, but to John's point about my use of the world lonely, and my major reservation, the tone of their writing suggests that they are writing to another beleagured class of victims within the Church who must unite, etc. I feel as though a new beleagured class with a name and claims emerges more or less monthly, and it is wearing me out.

Can you sit next to someone who will vote oppositely to you on the question of gay marriage and still move forward together to celebrate Communion?

Absolutely. It's not my Table, it's Christ's.

Can you participate in a Bible study or a faith discussion group and genuinely strive to understand in depth the person who has a different view of salvation through Christ than you do?

It honestly depends. It's one thing to "genuinely strive to understand in depth" a differing view, but if it's expressed in bombastic, brook-no-alternatives language, the resulting headache may prompt me to bail. [I'm sure I've prompted some headaches too, admittedly! ;-/]

JC Fisher

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