On her blog comments, Viola Larson wrote: Clay I would like to see you enlarge on this, "We have a magnificent opportunity to witness to the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ if we can find a way to keep Christ in the center of progressives and evangelicals." And please say exactly what you mean.
This blog has been enlarging on this subject for the past few months. So, now I will attempt to define the opportunity in front of us. The structure of this definition is: thesis, illustration, application.
THESIS:We have an opportunity to prove to this culture that those who have every reason to fear/avoid/antagonize each other can live in the love of Christ together. We can be one Body, even when we are unable to be of one mind.
ILLUSTRATION: In the early 1970's, Federal courts ordered the desegregation of schools across the USA by forced busing. In 1975, the first African-American family walked through the doors of Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church. Protected and discipled by their pastor, Tom Currie, they rooted in the congregation, and soon were joined by other African-American families that were moving into the neighborhood.
As people yelled epithets at each other, whites literally gave away their homes to escape "them," stores closed, malls failed as whites "gave up" on the south of Dallas, kids-- both white and black--endured gauntlets of abuse entering strange schools they were told to attend, Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church continued to become more colorful. Sure, there were times when a black man walked into the men's room to catch the end of a "n---- in the woodpile" joke; there were people who left because "they weren't comfortable anymore," or "it's too long a drive" from where they moved up north.
As Dallas, like every other city in the US tore itself apart in the whirlwinds of social change, OCPC prayed together, worshipped together, ate together, cried together, rejoiced together. After 35 years, the congregation is still stably 45% African-American, 45% Anglo, and now 10% Hispanic as the neighborhood begins to change yet again. It is a lighthouse of hope to all who look to education as a leg up, to all who need the love of family in Christ. We are an anchor of hope and stability for those black neighbors who now fear the new folks moving in-- we can say to them, "it can be done. The blood of Christ really does cleanse all sin-- so what if they speak another language? We can find a way to be community together. We've done it before, we can do it again."
No one was asked to betray their culture; the only assimilating power was the love of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, a higher allegiance than culture or clan. In that higher allegiance, we have found not only hope for us, but for all of our neighbors-- we have found Good News that is good news to anyone with eyes to see, or ears to hear. Walk in to worship with us, and you can SEE our mission.
APPLICATION: What if we could find a way to live and worship, to love, cry, rejoice together in Christ our highest allegiance? What if, instead of dividing as this "Big Sort" set of generations prefers, we held on to one another, even--ESPECIALLY-- when we cannot agree with, or even understand one another? What if, instead of leading the yelling in this culture, we prayed with each other? What if we trusted one another because we trusted Christ, not because it was logical or easy?
SO, the next presbytery meeting you go to, (if you're like me) find someone wearing a rainbow stole, and share your heart with them, and ask them to share their heart with you-- and then pray. Look at the face of the person who is speaking ill of you and love them as Christ loves them; don't water down what you believe, but speak it in love, and expect to learn something from what you hear in return. In humility, regard the person who disagrees with you as better than yourself.
We have a magnificent opportunity to be Christ's witness in the way that we love one another. Is that clear enough, Viola?