Turning up the lamp – the joys and dangers of self-correction

It is a relatively common occurrence for self-correctives to follow the theological-ethical-liturgical life of the Church. Such things have been part of our corporate spiritual journey since Pentecost. What’s more challenging to pin down is what exactly is being “corrected,” why, and into what. And, more importantly, whether any current push toward that correction is considered right, wrong, or even advisable by those on opposing sides. 

For example, one of the greatest “correctives” in Church history was of course the Reformation. Arguably, it brought some of the most central tenets of our contemporary Christian faith into sharp relief against the abuses of a Catholic church, run amok. Protestants celebrate this corrective. Catholics decry it. Those like me who straddle it, do both.

As I make my way forward with this blog, it has often been challenging how best to engage with the topics most at the head of our ecclesiastical-cultural parade. Since Innerwoven is intended primarily as a place of reflection and consideration of the inner life – the life of God in me and others – does this mean I should remain silent on hot topic matters? Wouldn’t it be best to keep things more corralled for the purposes of our own solitude? In the interest of attaining a sense of inner balance and proximity with God, is it more advisable to avoid the stress of incendiary and divisive talk that denies such balance? Is that always to be the case? When does interest only in contemplation without its corollary of redemptive justice become an exercise in narcissistic stasis birthed of fear?

Paul, in addressing the Romans offers the following advice: “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (14:19 NRSV). He advises an avoidance of matters most poisonous to the fellowship of believers and the common life of faith. Jesus, too, makes clear time and again that it is not our ideas that matter as much as the end and reason for those ideas (for example, see his 7 woes to the Pharisees in Matthew 23). He blesses the peacemakers who themselves are blessed. But he also tells Peter that, in faithfully following the Way, a time is coming when he will be taken where he does not want to go. It is now and has always been more about who we are becoming than what we should be thinking; about righteousness more than rightness.

About love.

With such a long set up, here’s my punchline: sometimes we must rouse ourselves from the beautiful silence and push out into the dark once more with light gained from those places. Armed with the Christian spiritual tradition that in every corner teaches an active contemplation along with the hermeneutic of Jesus: love the Lord your God utterly and others as oneself, let us set out into that dark night and with hope and faith begin a conversation about…gulp, human sexuality and the Christian Way.

To help me do that is a wonderful new friend, colleague, and a rather formidable academic, Dr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom. Dr. M as I’ll call her, has written a series of close-to-the-vest pieces on this very topic published at Sojourners online. She writes not from behind a professor’s desk. She writes as a faithful follower of Christ, who happens to be a scholar, about her personal struggle with our present lock-horns topic of “LGBTQ inclusion,” specifically as it relates to faithful Church ministry, and unity in diversity. The context is also of commissioned and blessed involvement under present Evangelical Covenant Church protocols (a denomination we both share and love) on the subject and what “faithful dissent” might look like. Her first submission is my starting place. As such, I leave you in her more capable hands. 

With this hornet’s nest awhirl around us, are we in a time of ecclesial self-correction? Just sparring over the issue-du-jour? Both or neither? This reblogged series is evidence of my own yearning for a place of love and commonality wherein all might land and still call one another sister, brother, friend. To that end, I send you here. I humbly encourage you to engage her there and me here, or both. Either way, let’s seek to engage for the purpose of common understanding and love. Why? Because out of the deepest inner silence come the most convincing voices of compassion.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

MichelleCliftonSoderstromTallDr. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom is Professor of Theology & Ethics at North Park University in Chicago, Illinois where she has served since 2002. 

5 thoughts on “Turning up the lamp – the joys and dangers of self-correction

  1. Michelle

    Rob, thank you for both your thoughtful reflections on your place in this conversation, on discipleship, and on navigating difficult questions. You have framed your own pursuit of God faithfully and you are a great writer to boot. I appreciate your engagement with my work, and I would be happy to engage either place as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Michelle, you are an inspiration in this regard. For one with your credentials, denominational standing and awareness, and influence to “come out” as it were in your articles and public statements in Denver is a remarkable act of courage. How can I not, in turn, do similarly? Let’s see if this continues to stir up conversation at Sojourner’s as well.

      May God have mercy on us all!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Turning up the lamp – when head and heart collide | innerwoven

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