It has been my lot to chair the judicial business committees of three different classes and now this regional synod. Why should I do this, when I might better spend my time on Christ-and-Culture or spiritual iconography in the films of Tarkovsky? Or how to convert my front lawn into a haven for native pollinators? Why do I end up having to act like a canon lawyer when I want to live like Wendell Berry?
If our goal is not to punch our ticket to heaven and escape this world, but to live into the reality of the new creation, the role of Christian mission needs to be more than just teaching people to say a prayer or understand a truth. The goal is to have people see new creation in us, through us, and around us.
A corrupt leader is a cancer cell in the body of a people. Corruption begins small, grows exponentially, saps the vital energy, and eventually kills the body. Isaiah saw this in himself when he said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips.” God’s self-disclosure is chemotherapy, a consuming fire that burns clean.
In this Age of Autocracy, we who follow the Gospel need to refute nonsense like this whenever we hear it. An authoritarian leader who has subjected universities, news media, courts and regional governments to political control, while stirring up xenophobic nationalist fervor, is hardly a model Christian ruler. With friends like Orbán in Hungary – and Putin in Russia, and Duda in Poland, and, yes, Trump in the US – the church needs no enemies.
If we are partners in earth-healing, we need to ask different questions about any place that we own or live on or love. For millennia, humans have mostly asked, “What do we want and need from ‘nature’?” In this age, we need to ask instead, “What healing does this place need, and how can I help?”
This year marks thirty years since I received that early vision of God’s calling on my life. Paying attention to the various details around my experiences has led to a celebratory incarnational theology. It is a privilege and honor to live amongst and serve the nations God has placed me with here in Hannover. It has enabled a continued reliance upon, and a relationship with, the God who called me so long ago. It is a relationship that is situated in an ongoing and regular encounter with Jesus through prayer and worship and it continues to fill me with wonder as I encounter this Living Word made flesh for us and our salvation.
For the young people I know, the world’s gone crazy, and the church isn’t far behind. They’re not concerned with the same things adults in the church seem to care about, at least not in the same way. Human sexuality? I’ve found young people across the theological and political spectrum are much more thoughtful and nuanced than adults. Politics? Social issues? Same thing. They’re not a monolith, but they’re much more willing to engage the conversation in a way that doesn’t demonize. They’re more cynical than people realize, at least the ones I talk to. They’re suspicious when I talk of transformation or change; they’re much more likely to find a way to get by—to game the system. And that’s the point really, adults have given them a world racked with division and hatred masquerading as truth and light, and then we wonder why they’re anxious or depressed. We hand them an other-worldly spirituality without telling them what it means to live as a human being in this world.
It is not fully clear to me why the 2022 committee did not engage the Smedes analogy nor why they characterized the 1980 report as hard and rigid and legalistic when in fact that report finally argued against being hard and rigid and above all legalistic in matters of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. The curious omission of this engagement is noteworthy and is something deserving of reflection by all who will have anything to do with the reception of this significant synodical report. Could the committee’s selectivity in dealing with the church’s stance on divorce and remarriage stem from a desire to not let anything interfere with a set of foregone conclusions? And are there other areas of the Human Sexuality report that reflect a simila
Like many pastors I spent too much of my time being a program director for children, youth, college students, singles, families, older adults, recovering divorced people, and all the other niche groups in the life of any church. That’s a fine thing to do, or it can be, but I wish I had spent less of my time being that person. I wish I had spent less of my time as a manager and a therapist and a community activist. What I really wanted to be, and what the church really needs, are pastors who are “stewards of the mysteries of God.”