Have you ever had one of those moments where someone asks for your opinion on something and you know that if you give the full unvarnished thought that it will open up a can of worms the size of Texas? There are several options: you can lie (which isn't good), you can just drop the truth bomb regardless of the effect (which, depending on how it's detonated, can be good and/or bad), or you can dance through a minefield in a way that stays true to what you believe without engaging the topic in such a way that upsets the other person.
I have no rhythm of which to speak, but I have gotten quite good at that dance.
I worked for an awesome non-denominational ministry for eight years. The ministry mainly produces church youth camps and, as a result, I had the opportunity to work with great people across the denominational and theological spectrum. It is a weird and wonderful place to be.
It's weird because every once in a while, I got asked those questions. Typically it was while I was teaching the Bible study for adult leaders. They were questions and comments that were only tangentially related to the topic at hand. They sniff around the more controversial corners of one's theology. For some people, these questions are asked out of sheer curiosity (most were in this category). Others ask as a litmus test: "Are you one of us?"
So I danced.
I have always been a fan of the statement: "In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; and in all things, charity." Quite simply, I didn't want my personal opinions to disrupt the beautiful unity of these diverse churches gathering together to learn more about following Jesus. I wanted to highlight the matters of faith around which we could rally. So I did my best to be honest while turning the spotlight back to the things that would not disrupt. I was in no way dishonest. What I said--whether in Bible study, conversations, or in worship services--were things that I sincerely believed.
So why am I telling you this? As I grow in my understanding of what it means to minister, I want to be more open. There are many people out there who will tell you that these matters of opinion actually are matters of faith and if you don't believe exactly like they do, then you aren't really a Christian. As a Christian, I think that is an incredibly dangerous message.
So every Tuesday for the next few weeks, I am going to be posting a series of blogs called "Speak More Freely" in which I am going to share my story concerning thoughts on some of these topics that are controversial to some. I'll be starting with women in ministry next week, I'll touch on the conflict between science and faith, and we'll see where it goes from there.
My hope in sharing is that someone else who may be asking questions about these issues will know that they are not alone. And I hope that they do not feel like they must ditch their faith if they disagree with some of what they have heard.
A few things I want to highlight:
- I very well could be wrong. I am not saying in any way that Christians should agree with me. I am just trying to honestly share what I have learned through my life and recognize that it is an ever-evolving process.
- That being said, these are not thoughts that I have come to lightly. They are the results of many years of prayer, reading scripture, talking with others, and general life experiences.
- What I write in no way represents the opinions of the ministry for which I used to work. Not that I aiming to be controversial, but if you find something that I write controversial, then you should direct any indignation towards me and not the ministry.
- I do not want to add to the vitriol and anger that exists on the internet. I do not think that everyone that disagrees with me is a horrible person. There are many good, wonderful Christian men and women on different sides of these issues. While I am diving into these issues, I still want to emphasize unity.
- I ask for grace from those that might disagree with me.
- The title of this series is a hat tip to Anne Jackson's Permission to Speak Freely, a book that I read many years ago that was one of the small lights that pointed me in this direction.
- I don't feel great about the Braves' playoff chances after they got no-hit yesterday. I hope they prove me wrong.
- Sorry. I like bullet points.
So that's it. This is a little scary for me, but it's something I believe I should do. Of course, no one might notice at all either. I have one more introductory post in this series that I'll post either tomorrow or Friday and then we'll tackle our first topic next Tuesday.