Wednesday, April 9, 2008

An Encompassing Church

I was reading some old papers today and came across a fabulous quote about the United Church of Christ that I want to share with you. It comes from an essay by Barbara Brown Zikmund, noted historian, about our identity. She calls the UCC an "Encompassing Church" which means we encompass a variety of beliefs, multiple worship practices, mixed patterns of ecclesiastical governance, active witness and service, and peoples of diverse convictions and cultures. We draw a circle to include rather than exclude - no line in the sand, no one outside the walls.

This is the great quote: "Today the UCC continues to offer theological hospitality to refugees from rigid fundamentalism and to seekers looking for meaning beyond secular individualism."

I like the two part nature of the statement. We are indeed a refuge from theological rigidity. We have focused a lot on that as part of the God is Still Speaking campaign and it is key to our witness as an Open and Affirming denomination. All are welcome here. But the second part needs a little attention as well - especially as I encounter the much more secular environment of Denver. Have we sufficiently made the case that the church, Christianity, offers a more satisfying, more deeply fulfilling life than purely secular pursuits?

The stereotype of Christians only as rigid fundamentalists is a hard nut to crack - unless we are truly out in the world, in the neighborhood, living a life of faith intimately connected to service and justice that others would like to explore. Many people are truly surprised that I say I am a liberal because I'm a Christian. I can't read scripture or understand the life of Jesus in any other way than he was an avowed progressive - not about a political agenda but a worldview. If I was not a Christian, would I be as liberal?

Anyway, ponder: theological hospitality to refugees of rigid fundamentalism AND meaning beyond secular individualism. (Interesting how fundamentalism is also often an individualistic endevour - me and Jesus.)

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