I spoke at length today with an old UM pastor-friend. We talked theology, societal needs, and ministry in the Church. We have some of the same questions about God and the Church. Together we wondered how safe people feel in our churches to ask certain questions.
For example, I envision a safety continuum something like this.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
How safe would it be in your church if someone asked, "What's wrong with a non-literal view of the Bible?" Would this be a 1 or 2?
How about this one? "Is Jesus really the only way to God?" In your church would this rate a 2, 6, or 9?
I suppose what I am raising here is not only questions, but statements about our faith that appear to contradict orthodox Christianity. I recall a time in seminary when I questioned the virgin birth of Jesus. A family member was deeply concerned that I was losing my faith.
I have always contended that any question should be honored and faced within the Church. One of the reasons that the Church is declining is exactly because people have not felt the freedom and safety to ask their questions within the Church. It is possible that some questions are viewed as a threat to mainstream Christianity?
If the message of our faith is going to speak to new generations we need to not fear the questions. For it is in the dialogue that historical truth begins to make sense to those who doubt. It is in the holy conversations that the traditionalists among us can include a new insight here and there.
I, for one, pray for our churches to be safe places where questions can be honored and respectful debate can take place.