ALL OVER THE MAP
I had a few reservations about writing a creed. So often churches separate themselves by proclaiming what they believe. It is as if, what really matters, is getting the theology exactly right. Often the statements of what they believe are more about what they don’t believe than what they do. To me, It is far better as a church to be known for what you do, than for your ability to understand and agree on church doctrine. Just check out a few church websites and find the page entitled, “What we believe.” Some examples I found are; “We believe in the Virgin Birth.” “We believe in the inherent and infallible word of God.” “There is no other way to the Father but though Jesus.” “We adhere to the unaltered Augsburg Confession. (what ever that means)” and “We take the bible really seriously.” Ok, I made that last one up, but you get the picture. It is as if, they are trying to keep out anyone who might question their beliefs. The people of our church are frankly all over the map on what we believe and that is not just ok, but encouraged. To me it is more about how, what you believe, informs and inspires your actions in the world.
I DON’T KNOW
I want to make a distinction between belief and faith. Belief can be about coming to a rational ascent to a set of statements about God that can be affirmed. Faith can be more like trusting in God. Unfortunately my seminary experience was long on orthodoxy (right beliefs) and much less about orthopraxy (right practices.) To me, faith is less about being certain about the big mysterious questions, and more about trusting anyway, the best you can. As I have served and have become one of, a beautifully broken people, something changed. I have come to realize that much of what I thought I knew, was wrong, or at least unhelpful. There is always a danger for me to want to be the “answer pastor” rather than to “make space for wonder and doubt.” I have had to learn, and I am still learning to say, “I don't know… what do you think?”
POINT A TO POINT B
As the proud father of two Millennials, I find myself giving rides to them and their friends. I usually take this opportunity to ask them as many questions as they will put up with. Since the options from point A to point B are me, or public transportation, they often indulge me. One of my favorite questions is some version of, “Why do you think young people today do not go to church?” Most often I get a wide range of answers that have something to do with the church not being “real.” Usually, it is because of an experience they’ve had with a church that cared more about its beliefs than its community. Or, caring more about it’s building then building people up. Sometimes it is because the church has come so slowly to the acceptance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender children of God, if at all. It is not that the church needs to reflect the culture more closely. I just wish it would reflect Jesus more closely. Jesus didn’t go around condemning those who were different. Instead he confronted stereotypes and turned things upside down. I know that this is a difficult issue for many people as it was for me. In fact, it wasn’t until I became friends with a gay couple while at Seminary that I could see how my beliefs affected my attitudes. When I reread the Gospels with a new heart, I realized that Jesus was called a “friend to sinners” by the religions authorities of his day. He did this by seeing the good in all people, something we could all do a bit better.
In the book, Convictions by Marcus Borg, he states that the Christian church is at a cross roads of belief. There are Christians who have a more traditional view of scripture and belief and those who have a more of what he calls an,”emerging view.” The traditional view is characterized by a literal reading of scripture. The emerging view is one that takes into account that the Bible, while inspired by God, is reflective of the culture and context of the people is was written by and for. I fall into the second category and my theology has been greatly shaped by it. These two views are in great conflict with each other. It is in trying to make space for this emerging view of scripture that I have found it necessary to write this new creed.
Peace and Joy, Pastor Tim