Monday, December 30, 2013

A vision for a Faith community

Recently I read an interesting article by Dr. April Love-Fordham about the Non-Conservative Christian movement.  The full article can be found here:

Couple that with the end of 2013/the beginning of 2014 and it has led me to consider anew my understanding of a vision for an emerging faith community.  Much of what I am about to write comes from reflections from friends and church members as well as my own experiences pastoring in Indianapolis, IN.  For now, I would like to stick with what I believe to be a healthy approach for an emerging faith community in regards to:

The Bible
My vision for an emerging faith community begins with a new understanding of Scripture.  The Christian Bible containing both the Old and New Testaments will become both guide and source for believers in matters of faith, heart, AND activity.  It will be studied as a communication about God's love for all of creation and not worshiped as an end in itself.  Not only will these passages be studied for the information contained but also for the formation it can induce (I am indebted to M Robert Mulholland Jr. and "Shaped by the Word," for this concept).  I am rejecting the notion that Scripture can be mastered by human understanding while maintaining my faith that these works reveal the definitive Word of God.  Also be sure that while I say definitive, I do not believe exhaustive- I am convinced that Word of God is still being communicated to us through the Holy Spirit.  This modern communication of the Word will always be the communication of God's unconditional love.  So not only will this Word be studied, but so also will the emerging community of faith strive to be mastered by the Word.  It will, by necessity, lead us in this community to alter our behaviors and possibly adjust our priorities. 

This will also mean that there is room for the emerging faith community to ask questions of Scripture, discuss their doubts and understandings, and confess their confusion over seeming contradictions.  Scripture can be approached with a sense of literary, historical, and scientific criticism.  Rather than seeing these questions as a threat to faith, the emerging community will revel in these conundrums as a means for advancing faith!

A suggestion then:

The Bible is the definitive, communicated word of God's love for all of creation that testifies to the salvific act of Christ Jesus in the world. 

One who studies and endeavors to practice this love can find themselves transformed in body, heart, and spirit.

This also means that the Bible is not a club by which the emerging community of faith can use this as a weapon to denounce, attack, or demean any other human being, organization, or faith tradition.  There is no master of Scripture other than the Master- God's own self.  The phrase, "The Bible says..." will be transformed into, "My (Our) understanding of God's Word is..."  This does not mean that the Scriptures are open to anyone's interpretation.  Rather, each individual has both a right and a responsibility to engage the Scripture as it is the communicative tool of God's unconditional love.