I have been thinking during this semester of my Doctor of Ministry program that maybe I'm not as progressive as I have thought I was. The readings on ecclesiology have given me pause and have caused me to review my thought and heart processes. I have been made quite uncomfortable by the writings of Huns Kung, Elizabeth Schiussler-Fiorenza, Tony Campolo, and Michael Battle. Each writer has caused me to think again about my understanding of what it means to be the Church in this day and age and to think about my own theological life, my Christ-centered life.
As I have read about the ministry of all believers, the oppression of women in the Church, and, most recently, of the relationships between the African American Church and the White Church, I have experienced a swing of emotions. I have gone from frustration (because I'm not that kind of narrow-minded, sexist, racist person) to grief and pain (because maybe I am that kind of narrow-minded, sexist, racist person). I am calling into question my thoughts and actions as I relate to those who hold different opinions or who are different then me.
I hope you believe me when I say I am open to different opinions. I encourage dialogue and enjoy Holy Conferencing with others. I believe that women are fully equal with men and deserve the same life opportunities. I believe that all humanity is created equal regardless of race or economic status. Yet, as I have been reading, the Holy Spirit has been asking me, "Do you really believe that? Deep down in your hearts of hearts, do you believe that?"
If I am honest, I do struggle with the different opinions, because ultimately someone's opinion will become the order of the day, and if that is not mine I feel the pain. Yes, woman are equal to men, but we are different from one another, and I mean in more ways than our physical makeup. If I have to say, "I have black friends," then isn't that prejudice as well? The Holy Spirit reminds me that I am not perfect yet, regardless how close I think I might be to perfection. Mary McClintock Fulkerson in her book, Places of Redemption: Theology for a Worldly Church, basically states that if we ignore the differences or pretend we are all just one humanity (i.e. color blind), we are causing as much pain and are as prejudiced as one who is openly sexist or racist.
I wonder if we pastors should see our sisters and brothers for who they are; different, male, female, black, white, ethnic, conservative, liberal and embrace them right where they are and learn about what it means to be in their skin with their life stories before we try to place them in our perfect square of life and even our creation of Church? Could the Church be different, better, more authentic, more Christ-like? Tony Campolo says it this way:"Don't simply look at people; look into people. Connect with them spiritually. Enter into such intimacy that you feel your way into their souls." As we connect with others who are different from us in our churches and in our communities in this way, an intimacy is created that transcends all barriers. (The Church Enslaved: A Spirituality of Racial Reconciliation, Campolo, Tony and Michael Battle)
Campolo concludes his book by saying that "Spiritual people sense Christ in others and must embrace them regardless of racial (gender, opinion or other) identity. In so doing, Christian sense that they are embracing their Lord in the process." I wonder, isn't this what being the Church is about if we wish to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? I wonder if the transformation shouldn't begin with me, each and every day?
Just thinking and struggling,