The church in N. America is facing multiple issues that it is having trouble talking about. The cultural changes hitting us have presented new issues we cannot avoid. Yet when we bring these issues up, Christians are fractured, and often all conversation stops. To even mention the issues of “gospel and Kingdom,” what it means to be the church in a post-Christendom context, the issues of pluralism, LGBTQ sexuality, justice and salvation, women in ministry, brings a polarization among us that separates us into camps, most often the Neo-Reformed or the various emerging-protestant mainline camps. Many of us have been frustrated to say the least.
Yet if we seek to participate boldly in the mission of God in N America, we need conversation, dialogue and a place to develop what it means to faithfully follow Jesus Christ into “the far country” of what have become the mission fields of N America.
We need to discuss and develop Biblical, evangelically minded, contextually responsive directives for issues like:
The gospel. What is the gospel? Is it only justification by faith or does justification fit within a larger framework, the good news that God has made Jesus both Savior and Lord and is ushering in His Kingdom? How then do we proclaim this gospel in our context? We need to discuss this but frankly it’s been difficult to find a place to have this conversation apart from polarities.
The Scripture as God’s Drama, His Story. How does a high view of the authority of Scriptures translate in a context where science and historiography no longer (and maybe never should have) hold sway as the standards of truth and accuracy? How then do we preach and proclaim the divinely given Story to us in Christ’s under His authority and invite people in to the salvation God is working for the whole world? We need to discuss this but frankly it’s been difficult to find a place to have this conversation apart from polarities.
The church in Mission. What defines God’s people and how do we organize for mission. What does it mean to say organization follows the Holy Spirit, the gift structure of God’s people? How do we think about church in the world as the harbinger of God’s Kingdom. Sometimes to even mention the word Kingdom is to either be labeled as liberal or be misinterpreted. We are in need of defining things Biblically. We need to discuss this but frankly it’s been difficult to find a place to have this conversation apart from polarities.
Salvation and Justice as Related. Again, we are confronted with injustice in our society in situations too numerous and confusing to list here. What does it mean for Christians to respond to the injustice in the world in a way that make sense of/does not compromise our commitments to what God is doing in the world in and through Jesus Christ? Yet these discussions have been too easily categorized into two camps that we find inadequate. We need to discuss this but frankly it’s been difficult to find a place to have this conversation apart from polarities.
Women In Ministry. Here again is an important issue in our time. But this issue gets polarized with two options that do not seem to get at the heart of what is happening in the New Testament. Yet we have no place to discuss this without falling into the polarities that dominate the current streams of Protestantism. We need to discuss this but frankly it’s been difficult to find a place to have this conversation apart from polarities.
LGBTQ. The alternative sexualities of our society are a dominant issue we are facing culturally and in our churches. But everyone is afraid to talk about it for fear of being branded as extreme by either side of the spectrum. We need to discuss this but frankly it’s been difficult to find a place to have this conversation apart from polarities.
If we are to enter God’s Mission, these and many more issues like God’s Mission, the Holy Spirit and Culture etc., require prayer, theological work, teaching, coming together and seeking the work of God among us. If we would engage our increasingly post Christendom culture for the gospel, we must come together and seek God over these issues and many more. We need a place where we can gather, submit to Scripture and the Holy Spirit, and have these discussions where there is freedom yet comfort that we are all grounded in a commitment to historical orthodoxy. It must be open not polarizing.
This is why a number of people are coming together this April in Alexandria VA (Washington DC) to form the Missio Alliance. Take a minute and look at this conference. Look at the names leading us. (Check out the people here, many more than those listed as “headliners”). They are reformed, anabaptist, Pentecostal, Baptist, Wesleyan and holiness, Anglican. They are men, women, Asian, African-American, Caucasian and many other ethnicities. They are pastors, Biblical scholars and theologians all committed to the church. They are from Canada as well as U.S. They are all decidedly evangelical (a term we recognize might turn some people off) meaning we subscribe to the Cape Town Commitment of Lausanne 2011. Here, in Alexandria VA, we come to submit ourselves one to another that God might shape us as a people for Mission in N America. This is a forum meant to push into new ground and we hope no one will feel excluded from the conversation.
So here we go, this April 11-13 in Alexandria VA (Washington DC). Check it out here. We cannot predict what God will do in this place. Yet we want this to be a continuing forum for working out our lives under the Lordship of Christ for the proclaiming of the gospel in His mission in N America. We believe the “Future” demands we form a place where we can address these issues. Will you join us? If you are a pastor, leader, concerned Christian, theologian, president of a seminary or denomination, will you consider participating and becoming part of this effort? (e-mail jr.r[email protected])
Before you go … what other issues are there that we have missed? What would keep you from joining in? Let us know. I am one of many of the organizational committee and we want to know what you’re thinking.