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Turning the battleship…

24October2011

The high school class is getting ready to lead worship on December 12. So we’ve begun studying the readings appointed for that day, and talking about how best to share the good news and invite the folks into worship. Like most high-school classes, the kids want to find more edgy ways of doing things. (“Ooh! Ooh! Since John the Baptist was by a river, do you suppose there was a beach? We could do a beach thing!”) Let me just say that I am very cool with edgy…hipster that I am. But I also find it my place to remind the group that worship is not a show; it is a participatory event by God’s gathered people. Whatever we do needs to invite and encourage and make possible everyone’s genuine engagement (in as much as that is possible). Change is necessary; often times it is good. Nonetheless it must be accomplished in ways that allow folks to make it their own…which means that the pace of change is often slower than the “changers” would like.

At last evening’s Bible study, we discussed the variety of ways in which Biblical interpretation happens: historical, literary, ecclesial, reader reflection. The concern was raised: With so many different methods and opinions, how can we ever decide what is right and true…especially in matters of church doctrine? We concluded that large-scale doctrinal change is more a matter of evolution than it is of the moment. It takes a long time to do the serious biblical and theological work necessary to make the case that whatever is new is, indeed, a faithful interpretation of what God has been about with us all along. That means the demands for change must be self-evident and provably orthodox. As a result, the pace of change is often slower than the “changers” would like.

It takes a long time to turn a battleship. It’s a massive project that requires a great number of folks doing their jobs well and a whole lot of ocean in which to operate. Course corrections may be necessary on any mission, but they are not undertaken without clarity, a high degree of certainty and an even greater marshaling of effort.

We continue to struggle here at Grace in the midst of on-going concern about the recent policy changes of the ELCA regarding ministry and sexuality. In our worship and study together, we seek evidence allowing us to determine whether or not this new way is faithful and good. While churchwide leadership clearly believes that it has done its due diligence on this issue, a great number of folks, both lay and clergy, remain unconvinced…not because we are opposed to everything that looks different from what we grew up with, but because such a significant turn from the received, long-accepted and still widely held understanding requires a better, more complete effort at making its case.

When that happens…indeed, as that happens…we’ll be here, still studying and seeking and praying for the good of the church and the mission of Jesus Christ. In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to John the Baptist, a worship plan, and a bunch of kids who want to know if I’ve got a Hawaiian shirt.

DLN@CCD

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