I want to say a word about the Church (capital c). It’s nothing new. I’ve read the same word about the Church since seminary. I want to say a word because I’m really grateful for what we are creating, in partnership with God, at the church I serve as a pastor.
I have regular conversations with people who want to know what our church believes on any given subject. Right now it’s usually what the church’s position is on LGBTQ people. When I was first in ministry serving a church as a pastor in Tennessee, the question was usually about the role of women in ordained ministry, including being an elder serving a local congregation. (Man, I could tell … you … stories.) Tomorrow, the question will be something else that the Church is discerning and Openly* entering into.
That’s why ministry is always fun and never gets boring.
The only way to answer that question from my perspective as a Christian pastor is to say that I don’t speak for the church on that. I’m not sure why, but it always seems to sound strange for most everyone I’m talking to when I acknowledge that. Which reveals an assumption, I think. And the assumption is the wrong starting point. Especially, if you want to have a real conversation about the Church and the community it creates.
I can tell someone what I personally believe about any number of people and issues; I often do and am overjoyed to tell them and to hear their beliefs. I can also tell someone that the people of the church I pastor hold different beliefs about those same people and issues. What causes the odd stares, though, is when I tell someone, That is, in fact, the way I want it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And further, That is what we are intentionally creating, in partnership with God.
It isn’t neat; but it’s always interesting.
Holding together as a church when we hold different beliefs/opinions/positions is the necessary pre-requisite for community to exist. Without a diversity of theological opinions (or any other categories of opinions), community is – and I can’t overstate this – impossible.
Without a diversity of theological opinions, you can’t have a unity, you can only have a uniformity. And isn’t uniformity where we get the word uniform; that is, a group of people who wear the same uniform, maybe with a few stripes to distinguish some from others? I don’t want to look out and see everyone wearing the same “uniform”.
I want to gather at a welcome Table, made up of people who are learning to love one another as Jesus loves the Church.
*I capitalize “Open” because that is the place of the Spirit.