The E Word, Reconceiving Evangelism – from Rev. Welch

 

Dear Friends and Members of the United Church of Norman-UCC

Why Not Everyone Should be Christian

This could be taken as a remarkable statement to make as a Christian pastor. But I don’t wish for a world where everyone converted to Christianity. This isn’t because I don’t want everyone to be saved, it’s just that I don’t think being a Christian saves anyone. If we are to meaningfully talk about salvation, that must involve the work of God/good in the world and the cooperation of human beings in that effort.

To talk about the question of salvation, we should ask what we need to be saved from? Anyone could make a list of the problems of human existence. Our inability to live well together being a top candidate. Racism, gender discrimination, and violence is another. The concentration of wealth where most of the world’s population don’t have enough to live while the top 1% owns half the world’s wealth is another.

But then there are other problems of a more existential nature. The lack of meaning in some people’s lives. The need for community, support, and the feeling of being included and valued as people is another. The need for growth, intellectual and moral is an important one. The need for love, to receive and give that to one another. The need to do valuable and meaningful work and the desire to see one’s efforts make a difference and impact others.

Salvation, in such an account, would seek to address these concerns. The solutions to them are hardly unitary, even if we are using a single word to describe them. Salvation is catch all phrase for all the many efforts, events and situations that could be able to contribute to the good, the transformation of life to the better. Given the problems and solutions we could envision, it should be clear that no one religion can solve them or save us though each could contribute to a solution.

Various religious and secular traditions have developed a language to take a hold of the world, sometimes, in ways that let us get a handle on the problems of human life. But what each tradition has developed, as a response, is different. They are each attentive to certain issues, given their histories, the cultures they developed in. Like the use of language, they open and close off ways of viewing the world.

We wouldn’t wish for a single religion, any more than we would wish that we could all speak Esperanto. We would lose too many resources, too many ways of describing, seeing, and living in the world, if we were to lose our languages. The same is the case with religion. I take religious pluralism, to be an important asset we have as humans. It means we have a variety of ways of engaging the world.

One of the privileges I have is to teach comparative religions at Oklahoma City Community College. To discuss the problems of human life through the resources of our world’s varied religious traditions. And yet I also serve as a pastor who is interested in connecting people to the riches of the Christian tradition. Is this a contradiction?

I don’t think so. I think the tradition has resources for life. And if somebody finds riches in other traditions this is a good thing. But if they find it in my tradition that is good too. A lot of that will be determined by the personal life story and experiences of an individual. But some of this also connected to the barriers or the ease people have in finding their way into the tradition.

For instance, I see the anti-gay stance of many churches as a barrier to Christian faith. I see some beliefs that pit what we know from science with religious faith as another barrier. In my view, evangelism would not be converting people who are happy in their faith to your faith. It would be removing barriers that block Christian faith from those who could find sustenance in it.

Blessings,

Rev. Dwight Welch

 

 

Adult Education and Future Events

Look for our church banner at the rally and join us!

February 12, 19, and 26th Chris Carter is leading adult ed at 9:30 as we watch and discuss the PBS series from Jesus to Christ. A history of early Christian origins.

 

 

Book Club Febuary 13th

We’re discussing chapters 4 and 5 of Listen Liberal at Nancy Logan’s home 3200 Summit Bend at 7pm.

 

 

Food and Shelter Needs

Resident and Shelter Needs include soap, cleaning supplies, furniture, diapers. Kitchen Needs are dry sealed foods. Care Packets for the homeless include deodorant, self care products, snack foods

 

 

A New Recycling Box

Given the number of paper products we use for our morning gatherings and conversation box the Social Justice committee has set up a recycling box to discard those items. Look for it on Sundays!