I have just returned from extraordinary trip to Thailand. I went to connect with colleagues from around the globe to talk about the future of the progressive church. I’m not sure what I was expecting. I was daunted by the 30 hours of travel that it was going to take to get to Bangkok and hopeful that the people I encountered along the way would make it all worth while. I was curious to see what progressive Christian leaders from other countries would have to say about the church in their context. In the United States, we tend to be a little depressed about the future of the church. We have witnessed years and years of decline and have a pretty limited capacity for dreaming at this point.
I must tell you that the people that I met were extraordinary. We gathered from every corner of the globe – from Uganda, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Malaysia, from Costa Rica, from Brazil, from the United States, from England, from the West Bank, from South Africa, from Australia – 40 of us all dreaming of a world of peace, grace and justice. I will write more specifics about the experience itself in the coming days. At the end of our journey together, we developed a list of values – dreams actually – of the kind of world that, if we work together, we hope to create. Here’s what we seek:
- We believe in Jesus and the good news of the reign, commonwealth, or ecosystem of God, and we seek for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven by focusing on love – love for God and neighbor, for outsider and enemy.
- We seek to know, serve, and join the poor in the struggle for justice and freedom … through advocacy, relationships, and action.
- We seek to honor, interpret, and apply the Bible in fresh and healing ways, aware of the damaging ways the Bible has been used in the past.
- We seek the common good, locally and globally, through churches of many diverse forms, contexts, and traditions, and we imagine fresh ways for churches to form Christlike people and join God in the healing of the world.
- We seek to reconnect with the earth, understand the harm human beings are doing to it, and discover more responsible, regenerative ways of life in it.
- We build inclusive partnerships across gaps between the powerful and vulnerable – including disparities based on wealth, gender, race and ethnic identity, education, religion, sexuality, age, politics, and physical ability.
- We engage conflict at all levels of human society with the creative and nonviolent wisdom of peacemaking.
- We propose new ways of encountering the other in today’s pluralistic world and we collaborate with other religious and secular groups in alliances for the common good.
- We host safe space for constructive theological conversation, seeking to root our practice in theological reflection and seeking to express our reflection in practical action.
- We value the arts for their unique role in nurturing, challenging, and transforming our humanity.
- We emphasize spiritual and relational practices to strengthen our inner life with God and our relationships with one another.
It seems obvious that we would all want this kind of world. The challenge is that few of us are willing to do the work and make the sacrifices to bring it into being. For our part as Americans, we will be forced to face the reality that our consumeristic lifestyle is unsustainable. We are consuming an inordinate amount of the global resources available to support all of life on earth. More troubling, when we want more, we are used to wielding our political and military might to simply take it from others. This can’t be our future.
Jesus spent a great deal of his time among us teaching us about holy uses of power and property. I have often wondered why the story of Jesus feeding the masses with loaves and fish is told 6 times in 4 gospels. No other story gets this kind emphasis. At its core, it is about generosity, trusting that there will always be enough as long as everyone shares. When you live from that place, suddenly power is about giving life rather than taking it. Power becomes collaborative instead of competitive. It becomes a sacred force for good in the world.
How do you use power in your life? Better yet, can you use it to create heaven on earth? We could use more of that.
We’re all in this together,
Rev. Cameron Trimble
The Center for Progressive Renewal