Newly elected General Minister and President Teresa Hord Owens needs to clarify her remarks provided here
in the Christian Century. The Kingdom will not be reached by letting some folks in and keeping others out. It doesn’t work that way. All bigotry is evil. The privileged need to stop it. The marginalized need to stop. And damn it, the church needs to stop it.
Here’s the context. First a discussion of nonessential.
Her particular role is to lead people in efforts where they can agree, especially given the Christian Church’s history of making room for “widely divergent viewpoints concerning ‘nonessentials,’” as denominational literature puts it.
The Disciples have had conflict over LGBTQ inclusion, though a previous General Assembly passed a resolution in favor of it. She noted that the calls she has received have not been about her views on Black Lives Matter, but about sexuality and politics. She emphasized that her desire is to care for the vulnerable, not to align theology and politics.
Is the Black Lives Matter movement politics? No. Only if you think it is a political matter to believe Black kids should not be killed in disproportionate numbers by the police. Is LGBTQ inclusion politics? No. Only if you think what God has made you can declare to be unclean. If your cultural background teaches you that women, or gays, or trans people, or people who speak Spanish or Black people are lesser, then–and, let me be perfectly clear–fuck your culture. I give zero shits about your stupid culture. And I certainly reject any notion that such bullshit is theology.
“We’re disciples of Christ, not of any particular ideology,” she said. Further, since denominational polity lacks emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy and places high value on congregational discernment, “we have no hammer to lay down.”
She noted that her congregation displays banners with the motto, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things love.” Unity, she clarifies, isn’t consensus, including in scriptural interpretation. Owens stressed the importance of biblical literacy: wrestling with the text in the pews as well as the pulpit.
I’m not sure what to make of this. I really like Biblical literacy as you can see from almost everything else I’ve written in this blog. But how will it help us care for the vulnerable? (P.S. are LGBTQ folks not the vulnerable?) How will it make us a pro-reconciling/anti-racist church–something Reverend Owens claims later in the article to care about.
“The church really does have to be able to hold all those things in tension and be able to take a stand when it needs to, and keep calling people to account on that issue of love—that cuts through a lot of disagreements about what’s essential and nonessential,” she said. “Unity is not possible if love isn’t right up there with it.”
The church does not need to hold in tension whether my friends are people. The human beings God made and that I love are people, and I’m not going to be tolerant of any nonsensical garbage that suggests otherwise. And all humans–let alone all Christians–being treated as people loved in the eyes of God sure as shit is an essential.