Can anyone doubt that we live in an age of diversity? The barrage of campaign trail blather is enough to remind us that when it comes to the more controversial topics, lines get drawn in the sand with a pretty heavy hand. All one has to do is read the daily headlines to see that we are a people who hold a variety of opinions on almost every topic.
The same diversity of opinion exists within the church. Even within individual denominations, there is a broad spectrum of positions on a number of issues. In such a culture, is there an authoritative voice that holds the ultimate answer? Is there one group or another that has more claim to truth than all the rest?
I guess that depends on who you ask, but it is my belief that there is far more that we don’t know than we do know. Even so, I also believe that there is truth, and that it can be found. When it comes to the more difficult topics, it becomes necessary to keep the bigger picture in mind, but it is important for the church to lend its voice on these matters. People really do want to know.
When the church avoids the more challenging topics because of their polarizing nature, we do a disservice to those inside and outside the church. Both groups deserve to have a clear presentation of the Christian perspective. It is the responsibility of the church to offer a Christian response. In doing so, we might even help clear up misconceptions and misrepresentations in and of the church.
Even though making a stand one way or the other on a matter will inevitably put me at odds with someone, it is important to make that stand anyway. The cost of having an opinion should never be a cause for withholding it. As a follower of Christ, I have to be willing to risk everything, including popularity, by lending my voice; the church must be willing to risk, too.
During the next several weeks, Covenant United Methodist Church is going to take that risk. We will be addressing some of the taboo topics that the church tends to avoid. Each topic or issue will be introduced first without opinion. In a balanced way, we will simply present as many of the perspectives as we can. There often is common ground that provides a foundation for unity and understanding among people who hold opposing views. If there are, we want to name them in the hope we might continue the conversation later.
We will also address each topic from a Biblical perspective – sharing what the Bible does and does not have to say about them. We cannot compromise our convictions by diluting or rewriting the Gospel’s message to make it more palatable. Nor can we afford to corrupt it with our own biases and misunderstandings. Instead, we need to explore together what the Scriptures teach us.
While we might not be able to provide hard and fast answers – in some cases, such answers don’t even exist – we will provide a faithful approach to gaining a scriptural perspective, which takes into account not only Scripture, but tradition, experience and reason as well. Such a quadrilateral approach gives primacy to Scripture while recognizing the living nature of God’s word as revealed to those who immerse themselves in it.
The series, “Taboo: Candid Talks on Tough Topics,” starts Sunday and will address some pretty tough topics that likely will generate a lot of reactions. We will be unapologetic as we pursue the pretty straightforward goals of promoting Christ-like living and providing clarity to both those who are inside the church and those who are not.
The series will not please everyone, as it cannot be all things to all people. But in the end, pleasing people is not our hope. Our hope is to honor God, and come away with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for a faith that professes to offer grace and love to all.
Those who listen will hear an honest struggle from a Christian’s perspective – one that acknowledges the difficulty and division these issues create, and seeks to find the grace of God that Christians profess and everyone seeks. I hope you will have an opportunity to join us for one or all of these sermons. A detailed description of the topics and the series schedule are available at the Covenant UMC Web site: theUMC.org
(Randy Monk is pastor of Covenant United Methodist Church in Evans. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)