Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Liberal Religious Ministry

I was ordained in 1997. I worked full-time at a large church as a student intern for three years before that. I promised myself that I would always respect congregants enough to share with them whatever I knew. Theological, biblical, or religious scholarship would never be a professional secret that I would keep. Whatever would enrich, challenge, or broaden my faith I would offer to others. They wouldn't need to accept my views uncritically nor would they need to adopt my opinions whole-heartedly, but I would offer them my honest thoughts and the best scholarship as I understood it. What they would do with my gifts would be up to them, but I would never assume that they were incapable of "handling" the information I had to share.

Fourteen years later I continue to share honestly with the congregation I serve. My views continue to evolve, but I share the reality of my faith as it is in the moment hoping that such a witness will encourage others to ask their own questions, discover their own truths, and share their own insights and experiences. I'm not very interested in doctrinal certainty or dogmatic conformity but rather an honest and reasonable faith that has room for doubt, that allows for change, and that assumes the sacred value of all people.

I have no notion that my belief or anyone else's will provide the assurance of eternal security. On the contrary, I assume the life-force is forever. Religion should improve this life, not promise another one. Life continues beyond this experience or it doesn't. Either way, religion isn't a guarantee that some will exist in a post-mortem paradise while others will be excluded from that paradise. Instead, for me, religion is an opportunity to form community, to ask questions, to search for meaning, and to find hope in life. If it accomplishes those lofty goals, it has proven itself valuable in our world.

Somehow, my approach to religion is often viewed as seditious, outrageous, even heretical. This always surprises me. And yet, my integrity demands that I share honestly. My optimism leads me to believe that such radical honesty helps at least some people.

So, I continue to offer a pluralistic and progressive approach to religion. I hope that the gifts that I offer are finding happy homes and that they are contributing to a better world. I will at least keep trying.

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