Friday, February 3, 2017

Called to Be the Church



Greetings out there in Crustyland.   The following is something I drafted with input of some colleagues over the past several weeks. I am well aware that there are a number of other faith groups releasing statements and forming movements, and encourage you to check those out as well.  This is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive. 

I also want to be clear that my purpose is first and foremost right now on how to respond as a person of faith.  This is not solely a partisan issue; there are actions Democratic and Republican presidents, Democratic and Republican leaders and lawmakers of all kind, for which they must be held accountable by persons of faith.  This is distinct from whatever one's personal or political affiliation might be: there are some things which transcend party affiliation and speak to how we are guided by our values as people of faith.

It is, perhaps, the very fact that the Christian churches in the United States have accommodated so much to the social, political, economic, regional, and racial differences in our society that we are in the state we are in. We have made the church in many places simply an extension of our belief system, instead of the good news of Jesus that we are asked to accept and live by.  We have wanted a religion that does not challenge, but affirms us where we are.  Perhaps in the midst of the anxiety in our society, this is an opportunity for the church to be the church that God has called it to be.

While sharing previous drafts with colleagues, I am posting it here under my name only, but do hope that you might share with others. I have no broader plan or purpose, only sharing my own sense of where I stand at this time, as I continue to pray about how God is calling Christians to be the church at this time in our life together.

Called to Be the Church

We are followers of Jesus Christ who have been blessed to also be residents of the United States of America at this time in history.  We believe in the good news of Jesus Christ, who came to establish God’s reign of justice and to transform the world, and care deeply about the future of our country.

We take no partisan political stand.  We are persons representing many political parties and no political party at all.  We are invested in the future of our country, and the world for which Christ died. 

We are concerned by the implications of decisions to be made and actions to be taken by our leaders.  We note the danger that our decisions potentially pose to the legacy of our children and our children’s children in areas including the environment, world peace, basic civil and human rights for women, LBGTQ people, persons of color, immigrants, refugees, people of other faith traditions, and how we as a society will care for the most vulnerable among us.

We come together to affirm the following:

1.            We place our trust in God alone.  We reject any earthly person or group who declares they, alone, can save us.

2.            We reject any attempt to demonize or scapegoat immigrants or refugees.  The Bible speaks clearly and consistently of our need to treat non citizens among us lawfully and kindly. (Deuteronomy 10:18; 27:19 among many, many passages.)

3.            We reject efforts to single out or persecute, Muslims, Jews, secularists, or any holding beliefs that differ from the majority around them.  We are committed to following the good news of Jesus Christ, who respected the dignity and worth of others, including the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15: 21-28), Roman soldiers (Luke 7: 9-10), and a Samaritan woman and her community (John 4).

4.            We believe in a society where we must care for the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable.  We are told we will be judged by how we treat the last and the least.  (Matthew 25:40; Luke 13:30)

5.            We acknowledge and lament the failure of our churches to preach the entire gospel of Jesus Christ, with its messages of both personal and community liberation and salvation.  We have made our churches reflections of our own racial, economic, and social divisions.  We must renew our commitment to a gospel where there are no divisions in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3: 26-27), and to commit ourselves to love our God with all our heart, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10: 27).

7.            We repent as the Church of our own sinful divisions that have prevented us from letting the world see we should and do love each other.  We pledge to work together as Christians from many denominations and traditions to live the unity Jesus prayed for at the Last Supper (John 17: 20-21), and bring the strength of that unity to our work for our nation and the world.

8.              We also acknowledge there are many who are committed to equality, justice, tolerance, and fairness whose convictions are not grounded in our own Christian tradition, and pledge to work with all persons in areas of common concern.

9.              We assert that politicians, and government officials of all beliefs and affiliations, are called to provide for the common welfare, and serve the entire nation.  As St. Paul instructs us, we commit to praying for our leaders and all in authority.  We also pledge to speak the truth in love when we believe it is necessary.

We commit ourselves to being guided by the following principles:

            The church must hold the state accountable to provide for the most vulnerable members of our society.

            The church has a duty to care for those persons who might be victims of adverse policies by the state.

            The church has an obligation to resist the state should it persist in pursuing policies which violate fundamental rights, or otherwise oppress people’s humanity.

We commit ourselves to God’s care and guidance as we strive for God’s reign of justice.  In God, all things are possible.

Icon of Jesus in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  Only God is all in all.


7 comments:

  1. Thank you so much. This is so profoundly helpful. I was thinking about Walter Wink's book, Jesus and Non-Violent Resistance. He talks about the way of Jesus being neither fight (meeting violence with violence) or flight (capitulating or burying one's head in the sand). This speaks to the distinct and valuable role the Church must play, not in amplifying the polarization that is ready taking place in the public dialogue, but standing in the midst of it and being a force of protection and healing. Inviting people from the poles into the center, where possibilities are and where real work can be done.

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  2. Thanks for putting the Gospel back in the center. We are constantly being prodded to react. This is the center from which we pray and work. Rod D.

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  3. Thanks for putting the Gospel back in the center. We are constantly being prodded to react. This is the center from which we pray and work. Rod D.

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  4. Beautiful, and sadly needed.
    Thank you Tom, and all who support this stand!

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  5. I agree. COD and I may disagree about particular actions but I am glad we share a common goal.

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  6. I question the assertion that [w]e take no partisan political stand. Politics is the mechanism for implementing policy. That policy can be bad or good, but to eschew politics is to opt out of changing the society.

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