Well Pastor John, in light of the actions of General Assembly, what are you going to do now?
I’m sad at the divisiveness of the Church. Scripture speaks against a “party spirit” (2 Corinthians 12), the fracturing of the Body of Christ into divisions and groups. The Greek word for this is “heresy.” The fractured Church is a blight on the gospel, and now divisiveness has raised its evil head again. Those outside the Church whom we are trying to reach with the good news of Jesus just don’t understand all the divisions and refuse to be engaged in them.
I’m sad that the Western Church is so reflective of our culture. Whatever our political/cultural perspective might be, it shapes our understanding of our faith. We have lost touch with the gospel imperative that challenges every political/cultural perspective to be transformed into the image of Christ. We seem much more concerned about seeing “those other people” changed than we are about seeing Christ’s transformation take place within ourselves.
I’m sad that the message of the Western Church can so easily become “Jesus loves and accepts you right where you are, and wants to leave you in your brokenness.” We are forgetting the transformative power of the gospel that propels us into “Kingdom living.” We are forgetting Jesus’ really tough challenge to “go and sin no more.”
I’m sad that we in the Western Church are choosing to see our standards, both civil and ecclesiastical, as descriptions of what people want to be able to do, and are forgetting the purpose of establishing standards that lift us up from where we are — goals toward which we can strive for our own betterment and for the common good. When everything is “okay,” nothing is worth striving for.
I’m sad that our obsession for or against some social issues blurs our vision and minimize the devastating impact of even more pervasive social issues: the growing addiction to alcohol and other drugs (legalized or not), pornography, and other numbing distractions; the pervasiveness of gossip and other forms of character destruction; the shattering effects of divorce and remarriage on individuals and society; rampant sexual obsession that destroys our desire for deep intimacy; the frightening slaughter of innocent children and adults in our schools, our shopping malls, and other public places; the growing perceived need to arm ourselves; the breaking of laws when “I have the right” frequently resulting in injury to innocent people; astronomical greed that feeds college and professional sports and entertainment while people are starving and education and culture suffers; the pervasive loneliness that has thrown “relationships” into a malaise and confusion.
I’m sad that skills we learned in early childhood have been perfected in adulthood – “guilt by association.” “I can’t be your friend because my friends won’t like me anymore.” If Jesus is our model of Kingdom living, those playground skills must be abolished. In my years of ministry I’ve been embarrassed by far too many people I’ve known who call themselves “Christian” – but I’ve kept with it anyway. Frankly, right now, I’m not sure who or which group(s) embarrass me more. I have a hunch that Jesus is really embarrassed by us all right now.
Some of the people I most admire, I differ with radically – God will have to figure that one out(!) Call the people with whom I associate any name you want, but God loves them too, and so will I – at least I’ll try my best with God’s help.
Yes, I’m remaining “Presbyterian.”
So Pastor John, what are you going to do?
Continue doing what I have tried to do through my entire ministry – proclaim and live the good news of Jesus Christ that transforms lives—including my own.
Continue associating with people I disagree with (and sometimes dislike) simply because that is what the Church is. I need these people in my life to fully hear God speak.
Spend more time with those that do not know Jesus than I do with those who already know him, except for those who desire deeply to know him better and be formed more completely in his image. I will be in league with them!
Continue to trust that God can use me, and you, if we are truly open to his leading as we move through the world “God so loved.” I truly hope you will stay with me.
Rev. Dr. John Haberlin
Parish Associate for Missional Strategy
Central Kitsap Presbyterian Church