So, I was at the National pastors retreat for the Sustaining Pastoral excellence program November 2008.
We were having a good time together, until the last session of the last day. My cohort did an emerging church study in which we looked at leadership principles for disciple-making in a post-modern culture.
Brian McLaren (who leans a little to the left side of the emerging church movement) has a great mission statement for his church: "To make disciples of Jesus Christ in authentic Christian Community for the good of the world." (Emphasis mine).
I think everyone, (liberal/conservative/fundamental/emerging/emergent/missional)
agrees with these statements: 1) The Church is the Kingdom of God on earth and it exists for the good of the world. 2) It is the only organization that exists to serve those who are not members. (N'est pas?)
Those two statements incorporate every facet of the COB. Yet I ask the question, why can't we get along better?
At the national pastors retreat, one other group was doing an emerging church study. They played a quote by Michael Frost which they titled "Fishing With Lesbians."
I appreciated the journey and context of this quote. Michael Frost is speaking at Calvary Pentecostal Church in a Youth For Christ Rally. In that Rally, he tells the audience a story about a fundamentalist preacher who is starting to get it. The minister, without any criticism, but with genuine warmth and love sees beyond the sexuality of two lesbian women, befriends them and fishes 3 times a week with them. He refers to the fact that Jesus has called him to make friends with sinners.
At this point, the National Pastor's conference erupted. I mean erupted! People were offended that these women were called sinners. The day before, in 6 small group settings (rotating) so that I had an interpersonal environment with everyone at the conference, I told a similar story of a baby shower for a lesbian couple with whom my wife and our praise team leader worked. Excuse my stereotyping, but when I shared my story, all the "liberals" were happy for me. Some even wept. I guess they thought they had converted a conservative. What I said was "The mother of one of the women told us that we were the first Christians to show any love to her daughter." and we told the one woman my wife works with: "We are sinners. Jesus came to save the world from its sin and brokenness. We have found that He loves us as we are and we love you as you are."
Now, we clearly stated that she was a sinner. But the second day, when the words came from a "conservative" (like me) the place got HOSTILE. I felt unsafe, judged, attacked, condemned and marginalized. And I discovered something that I hadn't understood before.
I already understood that conservatives feel called to propositional rhetoric because they believe that it is up to them to declare sin to be sin. (The danger may be that they are more interested in the propositions than the gospel). What was new to me was that liberals are just as propositional and self righteous about their liberality. To the liberals there, it was a terrible sin and offense to say that such and such is sin.
It was enlightening to realize that propositional theology, a construct of modernity, is as much of a stumbling block for conservatives as it is with liberals (but then didn't the Pharisees and Sadducees have the same problem?).
Then there is the temptation to comfort myself with a feeling of superiority since I recognize that God is not impressed with how well I know the propositions. He blesses me for sharing good news about Jesus. Period. But that is the real dilemma, that feeling of superiority. I can get proud when I see how wrong conservative and liberals are and get into the same cycle of self-righteousness. God deliver us from ourselves. Is there any hope this side of heaven?