Sunday, March 22, 2015

Attempt Great Things for God

[Sermon from Sunday, March 22, 2015]
I know my sabbatical sermons are over, but I want to share one more trip story with you.  In my down time in London, I went to Westminster Abbey.  As it happened, the Abbey was celebrating the anniversary of its founding that weekend, and I walked into a stunning evensong on a Saturday afternoon.  Afterward, as the music and incense still hung in those heavenly vaulted ceilings, I came across something I hadn’t known was there, among all the monuments to famous men (and a few women).  What I found was a lectern, carved from hard English wood.  It was given in memory of the missionary William Carey, who worked in India in the early 1800s and translated the Bible into several different languages.  What struck me, other than the woodwork, was the quote from William Carey emblazoned across the front of the lectern:  “Attempt great things for God.1
What made me stop short was the verb.  It doesn’t say, “Achieve great things for God.”  It doesn’t set the bar at success on our terms.  It says, “Attempt great things for God.”  There’s good theology in that:  After all, most outcomes ultimately are not in our hands; and what we perceive to be the outcome may be only a momentary glimpse of a very long process.
As we heard in the readings today, God plays the long game.  Millennia ago, as the Israelites sat in exile, God promised that their story had just begun.  The people had failed in keeping the covenant of Law, the covenant intended to make them a holy presence, a missional light drawing all the world to Israel’s God.  But even in the darkness of exile, God proclaims, “The days are surely coming when I will make a new covenant” with my people.  “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts … and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31,33,34)  This one wouldn’t be a covenant of law and obligation.  Nor would it be a covenant of worldly convenience by which we judge whether we’re getting what we want from our “relationship” with God.  Instead, God promises the New Covenant – a covenant of worldly risk and kingdom reward, the covenant of eternal life.   
In eternal life, both risk and reward are guarantees.  The reward is so clear, we may miss it, like fish who don’t notice the water in which they swim.  The reward of the New Covenant, as our catechism puts it, is Christ’s promise “to bring us into the kingdom of God and give us life in all its fullness” (BCP 851).  And our guaranteed risk?  It is the deeply risky work of remembering – remembering who we are and whose we are.  
Our part of the New Covenant is what Jesus commanded in the Last Supper, what we bring to life at this altar every week.  It’s the sacrifice of anamnesis.  That’s a ten-dollar Greek word used by theologians as well as physicians, for whom it has to do with taking a patient’s history.  In a church context, we usually say anamnesis means active remembering, remembering in the sense of bringing a past reality fully into the present moment – and that’s true.  But at Episcopal 101 last week, a faithful physician pointed out the word’s etymology:  Anamnesis actually means “not amnesia,” “not forgetting.”  It’s basically the same as “remembering,” but with a shade of defiance. 
When we remember Jesus – when we remember his sacrifice for us and our call to follow in his steps – we proclaim defiance to the forces that would tempt us to the covenant of convenience instead.  And in the Greek, we hear Jesus saying it defiantly, too:  “Do this for the not-forgetting of me.”
He says, “Don’t forget that I want you to attempt great things for God.  Don’t forget that I want you to be my body in the world, united in the love of washing each other’s feet.  Don’t forget that I want you to obey my commandments, which can be the opposite of convenience.  Don’t forget that those who love their life lose it; that whoever serves me must follow me; that where I am, there will my servant be also.”  This is risky remembering. 
But with it comes God’s side of the New Covenant:  the promise that we will abide, now and always, in eternal life – not just in the sweet by and by, but each and every day we rise in resurrection.
That’s definitely playing the long game.  But in the Gospel stories, and certainly for the people there 2,000 years ago, it can seem sometimes like Jesus was driving toward outcomes in the moment, outcomes on the world’s terms.  Just before the Gospel reading we heard today, we get some of the Bible’s very best drama, seeming to tell the story of Jesus’ rise to power:  He raises Lazarus from the dead.  That brings new followers out of the woodwork, and it makes Jesus a marked man as the religious authorities decide it’s time to kill him.  Meanwhile, more and more people come out to follow him, and Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph on what we call Palm Sunday.  As the Pharisees put it, “Look, the world has gone after him!” (John 12:19).  Even the “Greeks” (John 12:20) – the non-Jews crowding into Jerusalem for the Passover festival – even they want to find out what this miracle worker and would-be king is about to do.  You can almost hear the voices in the crowd:  “Jesus, now’s the time for you to mobilize us against the Romans!  Now’s the time for you to call down the armies of God against them!  Hosanna to our commander in chief!”
And the king’s response?  “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me, and wherever I am, there will my servant be also.” (John 12:24)  So much for the coup d’├ętat.
The outcome isn’t about Jesus riding the wave of success.  It’s about the Body of Christ, his followers then and now, being sent to reach “the Greeks,” the people still on the outside of God’s beloved community.  The outcome is about Tim, whom I mentioned a couple of weeks ago – the young man I met outside a restaurant who loves Jesus but indicted the churches he knew as being sluggish and self-centered.  The outcome in the Gospel story is that Jesus gives himself away to die – not because he wants to, which he clearly doesn’t.  Jesus gives himself away because he’s playing the long game.  He knows his death will defeat death – and he knows that’s only the beginning of the work.  He knows it won’t be him, in historical reality, who will reach billions of people across time and space, who will “draw all people” to himself (John 12:32).  He knows he must be the seed that falls into the ground to rise as so much more.
And he asks us to follow suit.  We who call ourselves Christians must take his path of dying and rising, giving ourselves up to be made new.  We must be about anamnesis, defiantly not forgetting our part of the New Covenant.  We proclaim it at every baptism, and we’ll do so again in the half-light of the Easter Vigil:  We promise to be part of a community of blessing.  We promise to resist evil and return to God and each other when we fail.  We promise to proclaim Jesus’ good news in all we say and do.  We promise to serve Jesus in everyone, loving our neighbors as ourselves.  We promise to practice peace and justice in the hardest places, even the intimate spaces of our own lives.  And over time, we come to do what Jesus says is the ultimate holy work (John 6:29), believing in the one whom God has sent as the source of light and life and love.  Jesus calls us to belong, to become, and to believe – to play the long game.
That long game is what we’re playing as a church community, too, with the Gather & Grow initiative.  Like Jesus entering Jerusalem in triumph, Gather & Grow might seem like something driving toward a worldly outcome – buildings.  And given the way churches sometimes behave, a person like Tim, the church critic, could be forgiven for coming into the Jewell Room, looking at the architects’ renderings, and thinking, “That church just wants to build a monument to itself.”  Churches do commit that sin sometimes – pastors, too.  We’ve heard this week of the impossibly named pastor Creflo Dollar with World Changers Church, who’s apparently changing the world by having his followers buy him a $60 million private jet.2  That kind of thing makes people like Tim blow a gasket.  Me, too.  
But Gather & Grow is not about monuments or egos.  It’s about a seed that fell to the earth and died here in 1913, thereby bearing a century of fruit.  Our use of space new, old, or otherwise – and, by the way, everything else we do as the Church – must be about three things:  loving God, loving neighbor, loving each other.  And through that love, God sends us out to reach “the Greeks,” the people who aren’t yet part of God’s beloved community.  Working toward that mission brings us to a few Palm Sundays here and there, moments when we might be tempted to look for worldly triumph.  But the truth Jesus proclaims this morning is this:  Mission takes sacrifice.  It means grains of wheat falling to the earth.  It means Jesus’ followers taking costly steps.  In our very real lives in this very material world, it means keeping the New Covenant in ways that will stretch us – pledges of our hands and our hearts, but also pledges of financial commitment.  Gather & Grow is the most significant step in Christ’s mission we’ve taken since we built this nave in 1952.  As he did then, Jesus is asking us now to play the long game.  He’s asking us to choose against a covenant of law, church “because you have to.”  He’s asking us to choose against a covenant of convenience, church that’s there to meet my needs.  He’s asking us to choose the New Covenant and write it on our hearts, the covenant of worldly risk and kingdom reward.
And the outcome?  The outcome is literally inscribed on the other side of the lectern I saw in Westminster Abbey.  Like I said, one side reads, “Attempt great things for God.”  And the other side reads, “Expect great things from God.” 
Expect great things from God – not in terms of worldly success but in terms of our life as the body of Christ, bringing love to the people God asks us to serve.  Expect great things from God – not as a payoff for good works but as a consequence of “walk[ing] in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us” (Ephesians 5:2).  Expect great things from God because God is playing the long game.  Expect great things from God not despite the embarrassing fact that the grain of wheat dies and lies buried in the ground.  No.  Expect great things from God because of it.  Expect great things from God because we are being lifted up with Jesus into the magnificence of his abundant life – the exaltation of servanthood, the glory of sacrifice, the greatness of giving ourselves away.

1.  “William Carey.”  Westminster Abbey.  Available at: http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/william-carey.  Accessed March 19, 2015.

2.  Stringer, Sam.  “Minister Creflo Dollar asks for $60 million in donations for a new jet.”  CNN.  Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/living/creflo-dollar-jet-feat/.  Accessed March 19, 2015.

Opening Door After Door After Door

[Sermon from Sunday, March 8, 2015]
I’d like to introduce you to two people this morning.  They’re both composite characters, but their stories are very real, stories that represent many other people’s stories. 
First, let me introduce Tina.  Tina is half of a couple who’ve both grown up in a church.  The two of them recently moved to Brookside, and they’re looking for a church family.  So Tina comes to St. Andrew’s one Sunday morning on a recon mission.  She’s checking the landscape, seeing what life is like in this place.  Tina comes through those red doors; and in her visit, she finds love – the love of Christ himself.  She experiences the mystery of God’s intimately majestic presence as she worships in this glorious space.  The choir’s anthem stirs her heart.  Several people talk to her at the Peace and after the service.  And I find that, by the time I get to talk to her and ask her to stay for lunch at Episcopal 101, I’m the fifth person so far to extend the invitation.  Now, Tina may or may not discern that St. Andrew’s is the church for them, for any of a hundred reasons.  But she leaves that morning seeing the church as God’s loving family, ready to welcome them in.
So, that’s Tina.  Now let me introduce you to Tim.  I met Tim outside a restaurant earlier this week, actually.  I had on my clerical collar, so he took the opportunity to share his perspective on churches.  He started out this way:  “You know,” he said, “I love Jesus – he’s great.  But I don’t have much use for churches.” 
And why might that be?  Well, let me fill in some blanks in Tim’s attitudinal profile with the help of this book.  It’s called Churchless.  It’s from the Barna Group, an organization that studies people’s perceptions of faith and religion.  This book is all about people whose perceptions have led them to be “churchless.”  What’s that?  A churchless person falls into one of two subgoups:  people who’ve once been part of a church community but are no longer, and people who’ve never been part of a church.  Nationally, 43 percent of the population falls into one of these categories.1  Forty-three percent.  Now, lest you think that’s all about blue states, those crazy people on the coasts who stay away from church in droves – well, it’s a reality for us, too.  The Kansas City area does have a higher percentage of people in church than, say, Portland or Seattle.  But still:  34 percent of Kansas City–area households are churchless.  That’s about 320,000 households right here.2  That’s a lot of people staying away from church here in the religious heartland. 
So what might be under that statement Tim made about loving Jesus but rejecting the church?  Here’s the really interesting thing:  Many churchless people are actually seeking God.  In the Barna study, two-thirds of churchless people report having done something to expand and deepen their faith in the past month.3  Nearly 60 percent say they pray to God regularly.4  Fifty-one percent say they’re seeking something better spiritually than what they’ve known before.5  These are not people who’ve checked out of a spiritual journey.  They’ve just decided that churches, as they know them, aren’t helpful as they make their way.  Why?  Because their experience of churches, personally or from the media, tells them churches are mostly all about themselves and judgmental, to boot.  Many of the people staying home on a Sunday morning see church as relationally shallow, morally restrictive, opposed to science, intolerant of other faiths, judgmental of LGBT people, and promoting a political agenda.6 
So, just as an exercise in exploring different perspectives, I wonder how Tina and Tim might hear today’s readings.  The first one, from Exodus, is a classic – the 10 Commandments.  God descends from the mountain and declares these laws to the Israelites, the thunder and lightning and smoke and trumpets scaring the living daylights out of them.  This is serious business; as the Law is later fleshed out, breaking most of these commands is a capital crime.  But paradoxically, these commands are also signs of love, the “boundaries [that] enclose a pleasant land” in relationship with God (Psalms 16:6), the limits a parent sets to protect her children.  Of course, how you hear these laws depends on where you’re coming from.  For Tina, they might indeed mark those pleasant boundaries of our relationship with God who loves us each as children.  But for Tim, maybe they’re just the first in a long list of rules the church expects him to follow.  For Tim, the church is all about rules – and from the very start, apparently.
Then we have the reading from First Corinthians, which is all about mystery.  When the world seeks something to believe in, Paul says, it looks for signs of power.  It looks for logic and evidence, an iron-clad case.  It’s the Stephen Hawking approach to God, from The Theory of Everything:  Prove that God’s necessary, and then maybe I’ll believe.  For those who follow Jesus, the mystery is that believing actually isn’t about that kind of proof.  Instead, as we’ll see in Holy Week especially, it’s all about the cross.  It’s about giving ourselves in love just as Jesus gave himself in love, paradoxically defeating the powers of evil and death by choosing the path of apparent weakness and foolishness, saving us by intentionally not saving himself.  For Tina, a person who’s inhabited this mystery for years, it’s her story – so deeply true you can only begin to plumb its depths in any given moment.  But for Tim, hearing this reading out of context, I wonder whether it makes much sense at all – or does it just leave Tim shaking his head?  Instead of feeling loved into everlasting life, does he just see himself as one of the “Greeks” in the reading, someone who doesn’t have the insider knowledge you need about God for all this to make any sense?
Then there’s the Gospel reading.  Now, this one I imagine might resonate with Tim a little more directly.  In fact, this might be the Gospel story of choice for churchless people – Jesus saying to the religious authorities, “What the heck do you think you’re doing?  You have lost your way.  You’ve made religious life all about what ultimately doesn’t matter – exchanging money (at a profit) and selling sacrificial animals, all so you can bind people to following rules.”  As Jesus reminds religious people elsewhere, what the Lord fundamentally requires is not about religious rituals, not about a sacrificial system that orchestrates acts of worship.  It’s about the sacrifice of our hearts, doing justice and loving kindness and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).  So Tina might be a little uneasy with this Gospel reading that shines a stark light on bankrupt religious practice and makes us squirm.  But Tim loves this reading, because it calls the church to repent.
Not everybody “out there” is Tim.  Like many of us in this room today, there are lots and lots of Tinas, people who love the church despite its failings, people who are looking for the kind of loving embrace we see and know at St. Andrew’s.  But we also can’t ignore Tim.  As I said, here in the Kansas City area, 34 percent of our local population is Tim.  So we ignore them at the church’s peril. 
But that’s actually not the real the reason we can’t ignore Tim.  The real reason is that Tim wants and needs deeper connection with God, and humans do best on that journey when we take it with a group of fellow travelers.  Sure, we each need some solitary time in our pilgrimage; but, to paraphrase Dean Wormer in the movie Animal House:  Lost, alone, and wandering is no way to spend your life, son.  The reason the church should care about Tim is because Jesus wants to welcome him home.  Jesus wants him to find a place where he can live out the truth that we know deep in our bones, that you just can’t follow God so well by yourself.
Our Gather & Grow initiative is all about equipping us to welcome people home – both those who write off the church as irrelevant and those who love the church, warts and all.  Gather & Grow is about orienting our hearts, and our ministries, and our buildings to reach Tim as well as Tina.  It’s about opening multiple doors into the story of God and the life of this congregation.  It’s about parenting classes and the Friday noon Eucharist.  It’s about an incubator for social entrepreneurs and feeding hungry people downtown.  It’s about finding Jesus in a discussion of politics over a beer at the Well and finding Jesus in the bread and wine at this altar.  It’s about welcoming groups and families for parties and meetings and about welcoming Sunday-morning guests on into an angel’s embrace. 
This is why Gather & Grow is the most significant thing we’ve tried to do here in the last 50 years, why we’re frankly taking such a courageous step to begin our second century.  St. Andrew’s is a house of prayer for all – for Tina and for Tim.  We may have more experience embracing Tina, but we can’t leave Tim out on his own – especially when he’s actually looking for God.  Because St. Andrew’s is not the church as Tim imagines it – narrow, small-minded, political, and intolerant.  That’s not us.  We are God’s mustard tree, with roots deep enough to support branches that welcome all sorts and conditions of birds to nest here.  We are God’s house of prayer for all.  We’ve just got to open door after door after door to show Tim that God’s actually standing behind each one of them, arms wide open, welcoming him home.

1.  Barna, George, and David Kinnaman.  Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them.  Tyndale, 2014.
2.  Barna Group.  Kansas City KS-MO City Report 2015, With Comparative Data From the Midwest Region.  Available for purchase at: https://www.barna.org/dloads/barna-report-cities-2015-detail.  2014-2015.
3.  Barna and Kinnaman, 61.
4.  Barna and Kinnaman, 59.
5.  Barna and Kinnaman, 41.
6.  Barna and Kinnaman, 97-102.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Gathering the Churchless

My church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal in Kansas City, is in the midst of Gather & Grow, a campaign to build ministry with people in our community and steward our facilities (particularly our aging youth center and tired lower levels of the church).  We’ve heard God knocking on our doors, asking us both to tend what’s behind them and to open those doors wider to the people around us.

If we needed evidence for that call to mission, we can find it in a recent book from church researchers the Barna Group.  In Churchless,1 George Barna and David Kinnaman document the fascinating spiritual state of a nation many consider Christian.  In a nutshell:  43 percent of the U.S. population is not part of a church community.  Thirty-three percent were once part of a church but have now chosen not to be, and 10 percent have never been (1).  In the Kansas City area – here in the heart of the Midwest, a bulwark of traditional values – the percentage is smaller.  Still, a remarkable 34 percent of the Kansas City area, about 320,000 households, is “churchless.”2

But even more remarkable is the rest of the story:  For many people in this group, God’s not the problem; the church is.  In fact, the Barna study reveals that clear majorities of the churchless are actually seeking God, just not with a group of other people on a Sunday morning.  Consider these findings:

  • Two-thirds of the churchless say they’ve tried something to expand their faith understanding and maturity in the past month (61).
  • 62% consider themselves to be Christian (41).
  • 58% pray to God in a typical week (59).
  • 52% desire a closer relationship with God (123).
  • 51% are actively seeking something better spiritually than what they’ve known (41).
  • 26% go so far as to characterize their spiritual seeking as a quest for spiritual truth (41).
As my business-oriented friends would say, this seems to be an “opportunity-rich environment” for churches … if it weren’t for the fact that they’re churches.  The Barna study confirms what we’ve heard before: that spiritual pilgrims, especially young adults, tend to see churches as restrictive and intolerant, relationally shallow, antagonistic to science, judgmental about sexuality, judgmental toward people of other faiths, and unfriendly toward people’s honest doubts (97-102).

I know I’m biased, but I don’t think those generalizations describe most congregations of the Episcopal Church, and I’m certain they don’t describe St. Andrew’s.  In a nutshell, this is why we’re undertaking Gather & Grow, our campaign to build ministry with people around us:  Because we know we have something to offer spiritual pilgrims. 

At St. Andrew’s, we’re seeking to reach people with multiple entry points as well as Sunday morning.  According to Churchless, the sorts of things most likely to connect with the needs and desires of spiritual pilgrims are ministries to serve the poor and alleviate poverty, to support and mentor young adults trying to figure out how to raise kids, to help parents instill character and values in their kids, and to provide safe places to explore real questions about how faith intersects with the rest of life and the world around us.  There’s our opportunity-rich environment – an opportunity to love people and meet real needs.

But we also have to remember each person in the Barna study is, first and foremost, a person, not a data point or a potential member.  So it might be helpful to think about real people’s questions and the answers we might provide.  Recently, a couple of real, live human beings raised a wonderful series of questions with me – questions that people of faith need to be able to answer with compassion and clarity. 

Just this week, I met a man named Tim outside a restaurant.  He saw me wearing a clerical collar, which can be a wonderful invitation to conversation.  Tim led with this comment:  “You know, actually I love Jesus – he’s great – but I don’t have much use for churches.”  What follows is not a transcript of our conversation but questions both from Tim and from other spiritual pilgrims.  I’ve also taken a shot at some answers.

  • “The people of the church and the clergy don’t care about me or what I want.”  I’m sorry that’s been your experience.  It’s a sadly ironic truth that churches sometimes lose their focus on the people about whom Jesus was so concerned – those on the outside of religious boundaries.  Churches sometimes do get caught up in their own institutional lives, and points of view like yours remind us where the institution needs to focus – on those who aren’t members, as well as those who are.  In most churches (not all, but most), you’d definitely find that people care about you.
  • “All that churches want is my money and one more body to sit and listen to their dogma.”  Again, if you’ve gotten this message from churches you’ve attended, I’m sorry.  It’s another example of putting the institution ahead of the people it’s there to serve.  We strive to remember and embody some core principles to guide us away from that mistake.  First, the church fundamentally is not an institution; it’s the gathering of the people God has brought there to be God’s living presence in that place (“the body of Christ”).  Second, we’re called to gratitude, first and foremost, for the blessings God has given us; so the church strives (imperfectly) to be thankful for the gifts of all the members of that body.  When someone makes the commitment to be part of the church family, we do ask for a pledge of time, talent, and treasure as a mark of one’s gratitude for God’s gifts; but the amount and nature of that pledge is strictly between you and God.  Third, many (perhaps most) Episcopalians would feel much the same way about dogma as you do.  We teach the historic claims that Christians have been making for nearly 2,000 years about the nature of God and Jesus’ role in God’s work of restoring all people to the wholeness God desires for them.  But we have no litmus test for being welcomed into our community.  On any given Sunday, you’d find people questioning any of the claims our worship makes.  It’s great fodder for conversation and growth in our understanding of God – and ourselves.
  • “Church people are a bunch of hypocrites, and I don’t want to be like that.”  Neither do I.  But we’re all hypocrites, in the sense that the lives we live don’t quite match the principles and truths we’d claim.  The healing God desires for us has much to do with bringing our lives into alignment with the principles toward which we strive:  love God, love neighbor, love one another.  We’re all works in progress in making that a reality.
  • “If a church really knew me, they wouldn’t want me.”  I’ll bet the vast majority of people in any church feel the same way.  We are our own worst critics, and we know our failings better than any other person.  But Christians would say God knows us even better than that, placing a higher priority on our inherent beauty and goodness, which reflects God’s own beauty and goodness.  Where there are shortcomings and failures, God forgives and helps us move past them.  The journey of developing a relationship with God is about healing our shortcomings and living as God’s creations constantly made new.
  • “Church people have a holier-than-thou attitude; they’re pretentious.”  Yes, some are.  Cultivating the humility and servanthood that Jesus modeled is one of the most fundamental, and challenging, of God’s calls to us.  
  • “I don’t believe their Bible, doctrine, and requirements.  Church people believe a lot of stuff that never happened.”  In the Episcopal tradition especially, we have a long history of holy disagreement.  We see the Bible as living and active, in the sense that not only does it guide how we strive to live and love, but human interpretation of it is always a work in progress.  Very, very few Episcopalians would claim that the Bible, as a document, is inerrently factual.  For us, there is a difference between truth and fact.  Is it a fact that God created the universe in six 24-hour Earth days?  Most of us would say probably not.  Does the creation story in Genesis speak deep truth about God’s extraordinary power, God’s desire for relationship, and the inherent goodness of creation?  Absolutely.
  • “Church people reject the teachings of science and believe in things that are just plain not true.”  Again, for the vast majority of Episcopalians, there is no inherent disconnection between science and faith.  We do accept the teachings of science, and we share its investigational ethos.  We see God revealed in the astonishing diversity and beauty of creation; and we wonder and wrestle when the natural world and human acts call religious claims into question.  That wrestling, that conversation, expands our understanding of God rather than shutting the door to science.
  • “Churches are too political.”  Yes, many are.  At St. Andrew’s, we don’t tell people how to vote or what political party is closer to “God’s side.”  We do believe our faith shapes our responses to policy issues.  Every time someone is baptized, we remind ourselves that we’re committed to loving our neighbors as ourselves and to striving for justice, peace, and respect for every human being.  But we’re also humble enough to know that no person, no party, and no news channel has the right answer to every question.  Again, we find God’s purposes and preferences emerging through dialogue and conversation.
  • “Churches lack the courage to speak on important issues.”  Yes, that, too, is sometimes true.  For Episcopalians, it’s the shadow side of the last response.  Because we recognize that God doesn’t have a political party and that every voice around the table can offer insight into God’s purposes, we sometimes err on the side of being too quiet when taking a stand might alienate some of the people whose voices we want to keep hearing.  It’s part of the ongoing self-examination, and repentance, to which Jesus calls the church.
1.  Barna, George, and David Kinnaman.  Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them.  Tyndale, 2014.
2.  Barna Group.  Kansas City KS-MO City Report 2015, With Comparative Data From the Midwest Region.  Available for purchase from Barna.  2014-2015.