Saint Andrew’s is in the process of discerning becoming an RIC congregation. Pastor Weber’s reflection below reflects his feelings about this, and it does not represent an official position of our congregation.
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From Pastor Weber
Thursday, February 10, 2022
As I share my reflections on the community of Christ at Saint Andrew’s, I first want to frame everything with an underscored thanksgiving for all the love, care, compassion, and unceasing prayers you all have showered upon me in the midst of these major medical interventions. Being held well by all of God’s people is the manger in which we are invited to enter—to surrender ourselves to the mercy of God and the love of God’s people. Thank you for holding me well in this time. I am blessed by God’s grace through the ministry of all of you.
I have had much time to reflect, to pray, to practice the most difficult challenge—not only to recover from multiple surgeries, but more importantly, to day by day keep surrendering my life to the love and will of God. There is no pain medication for surrender other than to take in the presence of Spirit which makes the impossible, possible. My reflections have centered on the community of Christ at Saint Andrew’s—the state of the union, the issues and opportunities that we face, and the core question: “What does it mean for all of us to live under the cross of Christ….while we live, breathe, and make decisions with each other?” This is the grounding place for the Christian community and must remain solid, firm, and dynamic in our lives.
So, some of my reflections: I have reflected on the historic diversity of our congregation—diversity in thought, spirit, history, sentiments, values, persuasions. We have lived with good spirit for years with this multicultural diversity—not only in how we appear, but in how we think in our minds, hearts, and souls. Often it is easier to accept overt differences, but we can easily divide on more covert issues that we feel strongly about, but might be reluctant to share. This diversity across the spectrum of many issues is fundamental to our dynamic life. We are a “tissue sample” of multicultural diversity in how we appear and in how we feel and think. And we continue to work on expanding the range of that diversity. My core concern is how to support and strengthen this diversity with hospitality to many different points of view gathered under the one cross that unites us all. The tendency of the world is to stomp out those who differ because their opinions agitate and disturb and upset. The other tendency is to take any issue or program or cause and elevate it to preeminence as a “litmus test” for true membership. Unity is under the one cross, not under any other issue.
Walter Bouman, an ELCA theologian who died several years ago, but who was a major contributor to Lutheran theology wrote that the LGBTQ issue “is not the gospel which unites the church.” As we deal with this issue at Saint Andrew’s, then the corollary question is what happens to those who have different sentiments? Do they “just get on board” or leave? Are they coached into the right thinking? Do passionate subgroups spawn and grow and infect the church? Bouman notes that the church needs “the power from the Most High (we cannot do this ourselves) and the infusion of the Spirit so that our passionate diversities are “welcomed” and the respect and compassion prevail? It’s one thing to have a “Welcoming Statement.” It’s quite another thing to practice the courage and patience of hospitality to those in our midst who hold different sentiments and beliefs. I want that kind of church in practice, not just in our statements, but in the real, open, human disclosures and interactions in all aspects of our life together.
As an example of hospitality for full spectrum of the common good and keeping the cross central, I refer to the official logo of RIC (Reconciling in Christ initiative) which has the cross planted in the center of a rainbow of colors that surrounds it. The intent of this logo might be good, but the impact further alienates those of different sentiments on this issue. Furthermore, it elevates the gender/sexual issue to prominence over the many other concerns, missions, subgroups, ministries of the church. Finally, the cross doesn’t stand alone; it is overshadowed by the symbol of an issue that instantaneously can polarize. The cross of Christ self has the power to unite us under the gospel and welcomes the diversity of “all” people (our mission statement).
I am familiar with a Lutheran congregation in Palm Desert, CA. It is not an RIC congregation. But it clearly is a welcoming congregation to all people—LGBTQ, the marginalized, all ages and economic subgroups, ministers actively to the diverse neighborhoods in which the church in embedded, and is attentive to all persuasions as this congregation must be if it is truly “welcoming.” The rainbow logo is display on the church’s campus. But the cross stands center and above, announcing that the cross of Christ alone is the gospel which unites. A congregation can be welcoming without polarizing. The “common good” is a spectrum, not a position. I have been a part of conversations at this church which might be “hot”, elevating differences, but maintain the disciplines of respect and compassion. This is the Spirit that we are given. This is the Spirit of God whose name is “mercy.” This is the Spirit which this congregation is challenged to receive and practice. This is the Spirit which can be and should be a witness of bright light to the world that is so hungry for “the gospel which unites.”