My political and theological views are pretty progressive. But, when I got out of seminary, I figured that I was a person who could serve just about any church. And I did. I served two different small congregations, one in Louisiana and one in Rhode Island. Both had members with much more conservative viewpoints than mine.
For the most part, it wasn’t a problem. They had to sit through some uncomfortable sermons, and I had to hear some upsetting stories. But, we worked well together. And after a couple of years, we learned to love each other through any differences. Well, again–for the most part–I do suspect there were a couple of people who held a going away party after I left.
But I couldn’t just say anything. For six years, when various ecclesial issues arose, when Bush became president (twice!), when the war in Iraq began, I often had to calculate the cost of what came out of my mouth. I would even participate in protests without telling certain members of my church.
Perhaps it’s my own character flaw. Perhaps I should just be able to say whatever’s on my mind and live with the consequences. Be more prophetic.
But I couldn’t. For part of those years, I thought about my child. Brian was home, taking care of her, and the weight of being the breadwinner was something I always felt.
I’m in a progressive church now. There are very few things that I can’t say here, as a peace-loving feminist. I spend a lot less time worrying, and a lot more time ministering. With that freedom, my preaching’s gotten much more authentic and a whole lot better.
And I can’t help but notice that my writing’s gone from a crashing, swirling, damned-up pool to a steady, flowing stream, because I’m not calculating the consequences of every word. My mind has more space to think. I don’t have to worry about losing my job if someone takes the time to read what I have to say. I have more creativity here, I sense the Spirit moving more.
I write all of this because I notice people trying to carve out a “middle way” in our denomination. And that’s great, if people do have truly moderate positions. Wonderful.
But then, I often hear people disparage anyone whose thinking resides too far to the left or too far to the right. And I wonder, But, what if I belong on the edge? Is there any room for me?
Plus, I’m not sure if I’d be able to stay in the middle, even if I wanted to. The middle’s always moving, depending on who my conversation partner is, or what part of the country I’m in. I find a lot of people think that their position is the normative position.
So, is there any way that we can move our discussions from looking for some sort of middle ground to allowing freedom for people? Instead of rushing to moderation, could we each forge a path where we are and have a vision for more than one way? Or is that an inherently liberal position?
You know, I’m just concerned about all those people who are trying to find their way. I know there are members in our church who couldn’t attend most congregations in the country. But they’ve found a path to God in our progressive Christian community. And, I admit, I’m concerned about me. And other leaders on this path. Because it’s just so much easier when we don’t have to pretend to be a moderate.