Shuck and Jive

Friday, September 28, 2007

Being Known and Loved

(Conversations with Bob! Almost as exciting as C-Span!)

I am all about community. That is why I lead one! I think that people need a community where they are known and loved. Folks need a place to grow, to learn, to contribute, and to experience blessedness. Christian communities can be that when they aren't overburdened with rules.

I like
point 4 of progressive communities:

Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable (including but not limited to):
  • believers and agnostics,
  • conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,
  • women and men,
  • those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,
  • those of all races and cultures,
  • those of all classes and abilities,
  • those who hope for a better world and those who have lost hope
and point 7:

Form ourselves into communities dedicated to equipping one another for the work we feel called to do: striving for peace and justice among all people, protecting and restoring the integrity of all God's creation, and bringing hope to those Jesus called the least of his sisters and brothers.

You wrote:
It is my experience as a Presbyterian pastor of almost 30 years that we Presbyterians really operate on what I call the L & B method of receiving members. That means if you are living and breathing we will accept you as a member.
I am all for taking anyone who is living and breathing and wants to join! To push that a little bit, I think that people will join a community because they feel at home and want to participate in and contribute to its life. People won't join a community (unless there is a pathology somewhere) if they don't affirm its mission or if they don't feel welcomed and valued.

As far as the rules you quoted in the Book of Order, I realize that they are there. In my opinion, the rules are not absolute truth. They are rules that can be changed. I am no apologist for the rules.

I frankly, don't find them to be that helpful. I find them to be barriers, especially as they are used by some in this time in the church to make sure that everyone within the church and without knows that certain people are NOT invited.

I would much rather the PCUSA as a whole adopt the eight points of progressive Christianity rather than the Lord'n'Savior business, which does not resonate with many people. But, I, like you, am one guy with one vote. I don't like the rules we have that treat gays as second class either.

However, being a team player, I follow the Book (of Order, that is). In both instances, I try my best to figure out how I can welcome people and deal with the rules (including explaining lord'n'savior and G-6.0106b etc.) in some way so that we can fully include them.

So if you have an explanation for lord'n'savior that might be helpful for folks, great! I am always looking for creative ways of dealing with that phrase.



  1. Hi John,

    I've been reading your conversation with Bob and appreciate you two hanging in there with each other even when you disagree.

    You asked about defining "Lord 'n' Savior" and I thought I'd take a stab at it from a conservative evangelical perspective. I believe Jesus-as-Lord-and-Savior to be the very foundation of what defines the Church, but as someone born onto the cusp of modernism and post-modernism, I try to find fresh ways to talk about eternal truths. I think "shucking" the lingo may be appealing to you and find more common ground between us than we might have figured.

    It's too long to flesh out here, but as an example of how I talk about Lord and Savior things, check out the "Christianity 101" page on my church website, worded for those with no background in church. It is HERE

    And an example of how I talk about the particularity of faith in Jesus Christ is in last Sunday's sermon HERE

    I do value some of the progressive Christian values you mentioned, but it seems to me that without a personal Jesus at the center of it, there is not much that differentiates the church from a thoughtful civic club. I'd be interested in hearing you elaborate on what makes the progressive Christian distinctly CHRISTIAN.

    Sorry this is so long... your posts have made me think, and that's a good thing!

    In God's grace,

    Robert Austell
    Pastor, Good Shepherd PC
    Charlotte, NC
    Lighthouse/Searchlight Blog

  2. Hey Robert!

    Welcome! Glad you stopped by and commented! I checked out your links and thank you for that. I am confident that you have attracted many and have been a resource to help people change lives!

    I am Christian. What makes me that? I suppose I have my reasons that may not make sense for everyone.

    I have been working on what progressive Christianity is on the whole of my blog and with my chit chats with Bob.

    What makes progressive Christianity distinctively Christian? I guess I don't worry about that question too much. It is not at the top of my list.

    More critical questions for me include: how can Christianity make us more human? What does it mean to follow Jesus?


  3. I think it does keep coming back to (as John and Bob both point out), "the rules", i.e., the Book of Order. Presbyterian churches have (at least during my lifetime) done a very poor job of explaining how they work and what the different church offices do--oddly enough, what makes Presbyterians presbyterian by definition.

    I cannot speak for either John or Bob, though I can speak (though only indirectly) for my own church.

    Like I mentioned, we have periodic "The Rabbi & The Reverend" bible studies in conjunction with the Temple down the street. We have learned a lot about our Jewish brothers and sisters, and they have learned a lot about us Presbys. We study Scripture together and invite each other to worship with the full understanding that in all likelihood, the folks visiting from the Temple are not going to profess that Jesus is "Lord'n'Savior". And that's okay. Similarly, the Rabbi doesn't expect anyone from our church to decide to become a Jew. We still respect each other and acknowledge that we worship the same God, even though we may have different names we use.

    The folks at the temple respect our form of government and would not attempt to vote in a congregational meeting or partake of the Lord's Supper without first being members in the former case, or baptized in the latter. Similarly, we would not attempt to interfere in the political decisionmaking of the Temple nor would we engage in specific rituals without speaking with the Rabbi first.

    Similarly, I think that the Presbyterian Church can and should welcome those who may not believe as we do into the life of the church in the interest of trying to better understand (and love) our neighbor. At the same time, it is reasonable to ask persons who do not wish to join the congregation to refrain from voting, and those who do not wish to be baptized (and make the appropriate profession of faith) from engaging in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper (just as none of us visiting a mosque/Buddhist temple/Hindu temple/Shinto shrine/etc would participate in a ritual that the imam/priest/etc asked us not to).

    It's a matter of respect. Loving thy neighbor, if you will.