Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We Messed Up

An open letter to people who feel disenfranchised by the Christian church

We got it wrong.  For quite some time now the Church has made crucial mistakes.  We have assumed that Church as we have known it will continue without the major changes you have wanted to see.  We have focused more on doctrinal purity than the needs of the poor.  We have tried to start new churches based on our vision rather than your needs.  We have convinced ourselves that we have been loving you but more often than not you have not received our actions as genuine love.  We have held fast to worship practices that keep us entrenched and unable to conceive of the changes necessary to reach your heart with the glory of God.  We have caused division in the Church and the world with our beliefs about who is living in sin.  We have insisted that you accept certain forms of prayer and non-essential beliefs before we accept you into the Church. 

No doubt you could add a few more reasons why you do not want to be part of the Church.  I apologize.  We failed to listen to Jesus when he told his disciples that others would know us by our love.  I am sorry.  We messed up when we have allowed what separates us to be more important than what brings us together.  You have looked at us and decided that Church is not for you if we continue to be the way we are.  And you are right.

The question is, Can we change?  The deeper question is, Can we listen to you?  This is not to say that we should change the essence of who we are as the body of Christ.  We should not abandon the principles of peace, healing, love, and forgiveness that are the core of the life of Jesus and who we need to become.  But can we change the form of who we have become?  Can we love the world without expectation of new members who give generously?  Can we stand up for people who live at the edges of society, those who have no voice among the powerful?  Can we start new ministries that are radical and different, ministries that you would be a part of, ministries that do not replace but exist side by side with ones church people appreciate?

I am a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, filled with God’s Spirit.  Because of this I believe in transformation!  Yes I can change!  And yes, we can change!  So I ask for patience that we will get it and shift how we do Church.  I ask for your forgiveness that we can sense a genuine love for you and the hurting of this world.  And I ask for your prayers that we will embark on a new era of authentic love and compassion, not simply to get more members, but to love this wonderful world God has given us all.



Anonymous said...

Thank you! May I reprint this in a bulletin insert! Or maybe send it to the local newspaper or post it at the transitional housing apartments? You say the truth here and you say it well.

dave said...

I sent it to Anchorage Daily News a month ago but no response. Okay with me to share it with others. Such apologies may actually be a tool for evangelism, but that is not the reason I wrote it. I have heard of others doing this and attracting people outside the church.

Michael Burke said...


This is a well written and deeply honest piece. I have printed it out and have it on my bulletin board where I can keep it before me as I sit at my desk.

I would like to share it with the leadership of our church, if I may...

Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Michael Burke,
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
Anchorage, Alaska

dave said...

Of course, Michael. Thanks for hosting our lunch today.