I met our newly appointed Sr. Pastor last night for the first time at a small reception for him and his wife. For a couple of hours we all introduced ourselves with a little background information and were asked to speak of one thing we found to be a blessing in our church (Methodist).
When my turn came around, I spoke of the Baptist influence in my upbringing, then my move to a fantastic Presbyterian church in Richardson as an adult (Plug: Canyon Creek Presyterian Church), then to our current Methodist church.
To address the "blessing" part, I mentioned the theological diversity found in our congregation. Were it not for this diversity, I might never have been exposed to more progressive Christian views that have been such a huge blessing in my life, mostly within the past year.
This exposure did not come without some pain. A challenge of diversity is a tendency to seek like-minded people. We feel secure when our beliefs are affirmed by others and we feel better about ourselves. But when decisions need to be made by diverse groups, tensions can rise, people can begin to feel threatened, and it does not always proceed in a loving, compassionate, unified manner. This is true in business, politics and other social venues, but I think even more so when when deeply held values and beliefs are involved.
The tension. The tension can break us apart if we allow it. But as I've told colleagues and employees in "less-than-optimal" business environments, "Wouldn't it be a shame to go through all this crap and learn nothing from it; be no better for it?" In this case, I am far better for it.
If you've read my blog it'll certainly be of no surprise to you that my beliefs are transforming and moving in a more progressive direction. Yet there is still this tension. Actually, many tensions. A tendency to try to convince others of my new perspectives. Although there is nothing wrong with sharing our faith in conversation with those who might be interested, I'm becoming less interested in convincing, and I hope, becoming more accepting that their faith tradition gives them peace.
Another tensions is that between the old and the new. If I look back, I see where the old paradigm taught me many things about God. But the questions and answers where different back then. If the answer was "Yes, you've been saved", the question many years ago for me might have resembled "Will God save me from his wrath for all of my sins for all of eternity?" You'll note from my previous blog posting that I no longer obsess about Atonement theology. Now the question is more likely to resemble "Saved from what? Saved for what?" and the answers: "From yourself, your selfishness, and ego" and "For relationship, compassion, and service".
I would assert that regardless of our literal - conservative or metaphorical - liberal theological bents, regardless of what we think we are saved from, we are all made for relationship with God, our neighbors, and service, in this life.
"If your heart is as my heart, take my hand." -- John Wesley
Blessing my friends.