Friday, July 13, 2007

A Way Forward

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from the Birmingham Jail, he responds to pressure being applied from clergymen to be patient. He responds to calls to slow down with the response, “if not now, when?” Looking back on the civil rights movement, the question is a good one. Racial justice was nonexistent, and it took unswerving leadership to create a shift in the hearts and minds of the American people. As people of faith, we recognize that our hearts and minds, by virtue of the claim the Gospel has on us, are always in need of a shift toward transformation.

The Church is somewhat different, it seems. The Church operates within the American landscape and faces various limitations and protections via law. However, the Church answers to a higher authority, that of the will of God. The Church is free, through whatever internal, applicable process and within the framework of law, to organize itself. Ideally, the Church does this seeking the wisdom and will of Christ.

Being a member of a Church is a choice to associate. Together, we rely on commitment and a willingness to stay together. That means working together to resolve issues that divide us. Whatever side of whatever issue you are on, withdrawal is counterproductive and deadly. I wish we could be as adamant about maintaining relationship as we are to claim the moral high ground, whatever side we hold on divisive issues.

We risk further damage to the unity of the Body of Christ.

I want us to maintain the conversation that we might discover the reconciling will of God. No faction or perspective holds a lock on that will. The proposed covenant is not perfect in detail, but it holds the promise of ongoing dialogue. These are uncharted waters. But at the end of the day, I hope we do everything, within reason and our power, that Christ’s prayer to the Father be answered, that we may be one. If not now, When?

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