See you in Ohio, Georgia, & Alabama….

I’ve been enjoying my travels significantly more this season, having scaled back a bit. Stewarding my time in this way has helped me feel more present and engaged with each group, and I’m so grateful for every opportunity I get to have real, in-the-flesh conversations with readers. My last three trips of the season will take me to Ohio Wesleyan University, Camp Glisson in Dahlonega, Georgia, and the great city of Birmingham, Alabama—my old “stomping ground.”  Here are the details, if you’re interested in joining us: 

Friday, November 7
Ohio Wesleyan University Love Across the Spectrum Event 
Delaware, Ohio
7 p.m. - “My Year of Biblical Womanhood” 
FREE & Open to Public  
More Info

Friday, November 14 – Saturday, November 15
Young Adult Retreat hosted by North Georgia UMC 
Glisson Camp and Retreat Center, Dahlonega, Georgia 
All weekend - “Keep the Church Weird” (material from the new book!) 
One-day rate available 
More Info

Sunday, November 16
Canterbury United Methodist Church
Birmingham, Alabama 
Sunday School hour: “My Year of Biblical Womanhood” 
6 p.m. -  “Keep the Church Weird” (material from the new book!) 
FREE & Open to the Public 
More Info 
 

Let me know if I’ll see you there! 

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Sunday Superlatives 11/2/14

Around the Blogosphere...

Wisest:
Efrem Smith with “The Privileged and The Poor” 

“To dismantle poverty in this way, we not only need multi-ethnic congregations, we need multi-class congregations. Poor people ought to have a voice in the Church. They ought to have the opportunity to serve as elders, deacons, preachers, and board members alongside the Privileged. Putting all Privileged People in power and places of influence may be the American way, but it’s not the Kingdom of God way.”

Bravest: 
Micha Boyett with “Deacons and Elders and Me” 

“This is not a story of rebellion. This is not the story of a girl who moved two thousand miles away and learned to take scripture less seriously. This is the story of how my love for scripture deepened and grew more technicolored, beautiful. This is the story of finding myself in a church where I was invited to use my gifts in order to love God faithfully. I will kneel before my church on Sunday in holy trembling, because of the men who led me as a child, because of the women who led me without titles. I will commit my weak-willed soul to the leadership of my church because of the deacons and their wives who gave me courage to travel all the way to these vows. On Sunday I will be ordained.”

Boldest:
Austin Channing Brown with “Bring Yourself” 

“I believe in the legacy of black women who refused to be satisfied with lies. I believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I believe that I am created in the image of the Divine. I believe that I am at my best when I bring my wholeness to the table. I believe that the weight of racism and patriarchy can’t drown me. I believe that I am made for resistance, for freedom, for community.”

Truest: 
Jason Micheli at Jesus Creed with “If you can’t say it about Jesus, don’t say it about God” 

"We can’t say or think or act like God hates ‘sinners’ because we know Jesus didn’t. We can’t say or think or act like God doesn’t care about the poor because we know Jesus did. We can’t say or think or act as if God is against our enemies because we know Jesus loved them. We can’t scratch our heads and wonder if we need to forgive that person in our lives because know what Jesus said about it."

Coolest: 
Guerilla Mosaic Artist Now Filling Chicago Potholes with Flowers

Most Eye-Opening:
We’ve taken to listening to NPR’s “On the Media” on the 45-minute drive to church on Sundays, and this week’s episode—particularly the reports on money in politics and  “The Unseen World of Content Moderation”—certainly reinforced my conviction that sin is real (just in time for confession). Though some parts were kind of a downer, this episode is worth a listen. 

Most Challenging: 
Tanya Marlow with “What’s Her Name?”

“I understand that there are difficulties with accommodating the various needs of disabled people in churches and conferences. I know this is about pragmatism and budget. But that moment was a humiliating one. I fought back tears, and as people looked on, I smiled my biggest smile to show how fine I was with it. But as I was pushed into the sparsely populated, dimly-lit seating at the front, I wondered if we would tolerate any other minority group in church being segregated in such a blatant form.”

Best Insight: 
Larry Largent with “When We Doubt: The Wilderness Between Our Mountaintop Experiences”

“Our churches would do well to consider Elijah as they interact with those who are brave enough to give voice to their own dark nights of the soul. Not the Elijah on Carmel or Sinai, but the Elijah that was once alone in the Negev wilderness.”

Best Reflection(s)
Everything Richard Beck says about Halloween, Death, and All Saints 

Best Point: 
Caryn Rivadeneira with “School Prayer Doesn’t Need a Comeback” 

“I object to any mission to bring prayer “back” to school because I can’t support the faulty theology—downright heresy—of implying God is only around to hear our prayers when the building sanctions his presence. Prayer never left schools. And God never did either. To suggest otherwise should make us shudder. And yet, that’s what campaigns full of good God-fearing folks seem to be saying.”

[Reminds me of one of my first posts to ever go ‘viral’—“God Can’t Be Kept Out.”

On Facebook…

We have a really great conversation happening on Facebook this week regarding the reality of sin and the use of the word ‘broken.’ I have a feeling this will generate several posts. Feel free to weigh in. 

***

So, what caught your eye online this week? What's happening on your blog?

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Learning from LGBT Christians: 2 Upcoming Events (& a giveaway!)

This week I heard from a multitude of friends and readers who expressed frustration regarding Christian conferences that tend to speak about LGBT people as if they were an issue, removed from the Church, rather than speak with LGBT people who are in fact a part of the Church.  As important as it is to speak up about that negative trend, I think it’s even more important to support, encourage, and participate in the alternatives—gatherings led by LGBT Christians, two of which are currently registering participants. 

The first, The Reformation Project’s Regional Training Conference, happens next week in Washington, D.C.  Led by friend-of-the-blog and author of God and the Gay Christian Matthew Vines, the purpose of this event is twofold: 1) to provide training and resources on how to talk about the Bible and LGBT issues with non-LGBT-affirming Christians, and 2) to connect LGBT-affirming Christians with like-minded people for support and dialog. 

The speaker lineup this year is truly outstanding and one of the most diverse you’ll see in the Christian conference scene all year, featuring Gene Robinson, David Gushee, Danny Cortez, Rachel Murr, Oneida Chi, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Justin Lee, and more than 20 more. To learn more about the spirit and purpose of this event, check out AnaYelsi Sanchez’s piece, “Amidst Reformation: Our Chance to Change the Church” at Believe Out Loud. 

The second event—the annual Gay Christian Network Conference scheduled for January 8-11 in Portland—looks to be the largest since its inception with so many participants expected this year (more than 1300) they’ve had to move venues!  

I attended last year’s event, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was absolutely life-changing for me. (See my post about it.) I’ve never attended a Christian conference so energized by the Spirit, so devoid of empty showmanship or preoccupation with image, so grounded in love and abounding in grace.  I dedicate quite a bit of space in my new book to describing what it was like to practice confession, communion,  worship, and healing with these brothers and sisters.  I came as an ally, but I left as a sister. 

With attendees from all over the world (12 countries and more than 40 states so far),  the annual GCN conference is a gathering place for people to  celebrate both their uniqueness and their unity. This year, hundreds of LGBT Christians, family members,  friends, ministers, and more will come together in Portland for the singular purpose of  transforming how we engage with both Side A Christians ( who support same-sex relationships/marriage) and B Christians (who pursue or encourage celibacy) across the church aisle. 

I’m partnering today with GCN to give away two tickets to the Portland event.  In order to be entered for a chance to win, just share this post on Twitter  or Facebook with the #GCNconf hashtag between November 1 and November 8 (but  make sure your post is public, or the GCN folks won’t see it). A GCN representative will contact you if you’ve won. 

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians are not outsiders or enemies of the Church. They are the Church. And they are leading Her to a more hopeful, inclusive, and gospel-centered future. Will you join me and follow their lead? 

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The Slaveowners and Me: On Nurturing Empathy for Oppressors

* Note: In hindsight, I think perhaps a better headline to this post would be: "The Slaveowners and Me: On Recognizing Complicity with Oppressors." As you will see in the post, I am not advocating sympathy or patience for oppressors of the past, but rather an acknowledgment that Christians today are capable of the same evil. I've since learned that the headline alone turned off a lot of folks, so forgive  me for not communicating more clearly from the get-go. 

 

I was baptized in Alabama, at a Bible-believing church less than 12 miles and 30 years away from where four little girls—Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair—were killed in a church bombing during the Civil Rights movement.  I knew the starched white columns of old plantation homes just as well as I knew the spires of Cinderella’s storybook castle, and I’d seen with my own eyes how, just before a harvest, Georgia’s cotton fields could look like a fresh-fallen snow.   

My ancestors were not slave owners, but they fought a war to protect their neighbors who were. I learned the n-word from my great-grandmother, a sweet, churchgoing lady who loved Jesus and read her Bible and, in the remote mountains of Appalachia, regarded the black man we saw at the ice cream shop that day as a fearful curiosity. 

When I was a teenager, my family moved to Dayton, Tennessee, a town famous for prosecuting and convicting a science professor for teaching evolution in 1925, and which sits right on the path of the old Trail of Tears. I took a German reporter through the Scopes Trial museum a few weeks ago, where she paused at the tiny glass case in the back dedicated to Cherokee memorabilia and said, “In Germany, they do not let us forget. Reminders of the Holocaust are everywhere, not just our museums.” 

An insatiable reader, I grew up reading Southern writers: Mark Twain, Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, William Faulker, Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor. In addition, my mother brought home armfuls of historical fiction novels from garage sales and let me stay up long past my bedtime so I could see what happened next on the Oregon Trail, at the Alamo, at Sand Creek. In the midst of all this reading, I learned not only to empathize with the suffering and the oppressed, but also to empathize with the oppressors, who - let's face it - often shared my skin tone, my geography, my language, and my faith. I didn’t learn about America’s history of oppression from the Church. I learned it from Huck Finn. My church, like so many, focused on sins of the present, not sins of the past. 

I was thinking about this recently after our conversation on Monday about corporate confession and lament and after this week’s controversial conference on homosexuality hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Foundation of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Given the SBC’s troubling history of supporting slavery and opposing civil rights for African Americans, I was dismayed to see an attendee brag about the event’s good attendance by posting a picture of a crowded conference room with the caption: “So this is what the wrong side of history looks like.” Later in the event, a speaker declared he would “rather be on the wrong side of history than on the wrong side of a holy God.”

While comparing the suffering of slaves and people of color to the marginalization of LGBT people is irresponsible and does a disservice to both, I am often surprised by Christians’ complete lack of interest in exploring exactly why their predecessors might have supported oppression in the past.  It seems like such information might be critical for assessing whether similar oppression is occurring in the present. Yes, the SBC formally apologized for its racist origins in 1995, but I wonder how many Southern Baptists have taken the time to really study the sermons and speeches of their predecessors to learn what rhetorical devices and hermeneutical approaches were employed to make so many Christian people so comfortable with that oppression that they formed an entire denomination around it. 

The fact is, most of the defenses of American slavery were written by clergy who quoted Scripture generously and appealed to a “clear, plain, and common-sense reading” of biblical passages like Genesis 17:2, Deuteronomy 20:10-11, 1 Corinthians 7:21, Ephesians 6:1-5, Colossians 3:18-25; 4:1, and I Timothy 6:1-2.  Many Bible-believing Christians, including those who were uncomfortable with slavery and encouraged masters to treat their slaves with “Christian kindness,”just weren’t buying the abolitionist argument that placed the “spirit of the law” over the “letter of the law." As Connecticut Congregationalist Leonard Bacon put it, “The evidence that there were both slaves and masters of slaves in churches founded and directed by the apostles, cannot be got rid of without resorting to methods of interpretation that will get rid of everything.”  [For more on this, check out my post about Mark Noll’s excellent and illuminating book, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.] 

When I raised this point on Twitter (not the best place to raise it, I realize), my remarks were met with incredulity: 

How dare you bring up past sins that are totally unrelated to the present issue!? 

Southern slave-owners were just racist and greedy people who purposefully abused Scripture to their own ends!  

Christians were on the abolitionist side, not the pro-slavery side! 

These responses  reveal a lack of empathy—not so much for those who have been oppressed, but for the oppressors. By characterizing oppressive people from the past as one-dimensionally evil, as hateful racist intentionally using the Bible to their own ends, we're able to distance ourselves from their way of thinking, and say "well we would never do that."  We "other" them so we don't have to consider how we might be the same. 

The truth is, there were Christians on both sides of the American slavery debate. It's an uncomfortable reality, but whether we describe people as submitting to the Bible or as using the Bible depends largely on hindsight. I have no doubt that many of the people who opposed abolition, interracial marriage, protection of indigenous people, black civil rights, women’s suffrage, etc. believed wholeheartedly that God was on their side and they were simply being faithful to God’s Word.  While blatant hate and racism certainly motivated plenty of our country’s past oppressors, blatant hate and racism aren't nearly as effective at sustaining oppressive systems as uncritical acceptance of the way things are. 

In this sense, the question, what were they thinking? need not be a rhetorical one. Rather, it’s a crucial one. As we read and explore and study our history, white Christians in particular would do well to ask of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents:  What were they thinking? How did they justify their actions? What convinced them that they were doing right?  Whether our ancestors were complicit in oppression or whether they bravely stood up against it, it’s worth nurturing the curiosity and introspection it takes to wonder why

And lest you think this post is about finger-pointing, I have no doubt in my mind that if my own assumptions and prejudices go totally unchecked, if I never stop for a moment to consider the other side and wonder if I might be wrong, I too am capable of using the Bible to my own ends, of convincing myself that God is on my side

We are often told to nurture empathy for those who are unlike us or those who suffer. But Scripture’s powerful emphasis on prophetic lament calls us to also nurture empathy for those we’d like to think are unlike us, those whose sins we assume we would never commit ourselves.  Because the degree to which we take sin seriously isn’t so much in how good were are at spotting it in others, but rather in how good were are at spotting it in ourselves. And sometimes that means combing through our shared history and flinching a little at how quickly those dusty pages can transform into mirrors. 

***
See also, Christ and the Greco Roman Household Codes, which shows how the very same passages used to support slavery are still used today to support gender hierarchy. 

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“Forgive Us”: Christians, Injustice & Corporate Confession

Author and activist Bryan Stevenson was recently interviewed on The Daily Show, and in his conversation with Jon Stewart, noted that Americans often have a difficult time acknowledging and confessing those corporate injustices—like racism— that are a part of our shared history and a part of our present-day culture. As I watched, I found myself thinking about how the Church, with the age-old sacrament of confession and the tradition of corporate lament, is equipped to speak powerfully and counter-culturally to this very issue.  So why have so many of our congregations allowed the practice of corporate confession fall by the wayside? 

Perhaps it is because many of us struggle to find words adequate to lament those sins committed against indigenous people, African Americans, immigrants, women, and other marginalized groups throughout American history. This is why the book, Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith is so powerful and so practical. In Forgive Us, authors  Soong-Chan Rah, Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, and Troy Jackson provide historical information, reflection, and prayers around Christianity’s complicity in sins against God’s creation, indigenous people, African Americans and people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, Jews and Muslims.  

This has been an amazing fall for book releases, and Forgive Us was one of my favorites, which is why I’m so thrilled to welcome all four authors to the blog today to talk about corporate confession and its role in the American Church today. 


RHE: Throughout the book, you make a point of identifying yourselves as evangelical Christians. Why was that important to you? 

Soong-Chan: A few months ago I got a phone call from a national newspaper for an interview about diversity in evangelicalism. Out of curiosity, I inquired about the reporter's background and she stated that she had no religious background but that she was originally a political reporter who was assigned the "evangelical" beat because of her background in politics. Unfortunately, in recent years, evangelicalism has become defined as a purely political movement. I think we are hoping to restore some of the theological identification of evangelicalism. That's why we state at the beginning of the book, our commitment to a high view of Scripture and to a high view of Jesus, which has historically been key markers for evangelical faith. I think more people would identify with this theological definition over and against the political definition that has come to identify evangelicalism in the United States.

From another angle, I personally do not want to abandon the term because it shows a greater sense of responsibility for the sins of evangelical Christian faith. I was at a Native American Theology conference when one of the white participants stated that we should abandon terms like evangelical and Christian. A Native American theologian replied that abandoning those terms would also be a shirking of responsibility that comes with the history of those names. In other words, abandoning those terms by those who have historically perpetuated those terms would be the opposite of what we are calling for in this book. Which is the acknowledgement of historical sin and the seeking of forgiveness that leads to a restored and redeemed faith community.

In the Introduction to “Forgive Us,” you show that throughout Scripture lament and confession are corporate acts. And yet much of Christian culture regards sin and confession as individual concerns. In what sense is corporate confession countercultural? (Say that three times fast!) 

Lisa: In our hyper-individualized society we have lost the sense of being connected to much more than our own individual identity, desires, choices, and brokenness. Our society elevates the self and fails to acknowledge the reality of human sin. But this was not the world of the Hebrews. 

The Hebrew people were a communal and indigenous culture. Individuals’ core identities were interwoven with the generations that came before, their extended families, their community, and the land where they and their ancestors lived. We see Nehemiah stand in the gap confessing the sins his people as his own, though he never lived in Jerusalem and had nothing to do with the tangible cause of the burning of Jerusalem’s walls. In Lamentations 3, we see Jeremiah offer a lament and confess the sins of his community though he repeatedly did what was right before God. Corporate confession was a critical practice; exercised most often when the culture and governance of a society denigrated the image of God in their midst by disregarding the orphan, the widow, the immigrant, or the poor. 

The call of the Kingdom of God is always counter-cultural. Jesus says, “…the kingdom of God has come near, repent, and believe the good news.” (Mark 1: 15b) Paul warns us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12: 2a) 

Corporate confession is counter-cultural in our society because the hyper-individualistic, self-worshipping nature of our culture is counter to God—ultimately, it leads us to disregard and even crush the image of God in marginalized and impoverished peoples. This is the first place where we need to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. We need God to take our blinders off—to help us see how we are all connected—to help us see the image of God in “the other”—to help us stand in the gap like Nehemiah and Jeremiah—to own the reality that the forbearers of our Christian American faith were not transformed in these respects and the consequences still live with us. The walls are down and the gates have been burned by fire, per-say, and like in Nehemiah’s day, we need to confess the sins of our people so that our land can be healed.

How do you respond to those who would argue that many of the sins you describe in this book were committed by others—in some cases long ago—and therefore none of our concern?

Mae: Sin, brokenness, and separation from God’s perfection are realities not only for us as individuals but for our communities as well. It is imperative that we not only acknowledge our individual sins, but also that we realize and accept ways we benefit from unjust systems and corporate brokenness. Slavery is a good example. Many whites in the United States today may claim that slavery is a “historic sin” and is irrelevant today. People might claim we shouldn’t repent of the sin of slavery because, for recent immigrants, our ancestors didn’t own slaves. Yet, systems and infrastructures continue to exist today which were built on the injustices of slavery. After reconstruction  and until passage of the 1965 voting rights act white families and communities were able to build up capital and privilege while black Americans lived under the mantle of Jim Crow voting and segregation laws in the south, and red-lining and workplace segregation in the north. These privileges and racial assumptions continue to exist in our society today. It is imperative that the church acknowledge the ways we have benefited from these unjust systems. We must repent of both individual and corporate sins where we have been complicit and have inherited privilege. 

Why is acknowledgment of sin so important to true reconciliation? 

Troy: This book began as a response to a section in Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller when he described setting up a confessional booth at a raucous annual festival at Reed College in Portland. Instead of inviting confessions, Christians confessed the historic sins of the church to those who came to the booth.

As an historian, it struck me that this should and could be an important posture that the church should assume when engaging the world. We should adopt a confessional stance, acknowledging the many ways the church has failed God and humanity. The trouble is, we have a very surface level view of the sins of the American Church. We might be able to talk about racism or sexism in a generic way, but not with much specificity. I quickly realized that an anemic understanding of sin leads to anemic confessions, robbing them of the power to transform the confessor and those hearing the confession.

So at University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, we launched a six-week sermon series in the Spring of 2007 called “The Confessions of the Church.” Each week, I shared some of the tragic history of the church in how we have sinned against African Americans, Immigrants, Women, and the LGBTQ community. These sermons sparked a lot of introspection and lively confession and repentance within the lives of congregational members.

When it comes to people who have been historically mistreated, abused, and sinned against, any attempt at whole relationship that skips this step of honest understanding of history and heartfelt confession will be little more than assimilation. This has all-too-often been the approach of the white church toward African Americans: we are somewhat sorry you’ve endured so much, but now you are welcome to join our church if you would like. This is not reconciliation for it fails to honor African American culture and to account for centuries of wounds and abuse. 

The chapter on sins against indigenous people really moved me. Tell us a little about how, in response to dialog with indigenous theologians and activists, InterVarsity made policies to submit to the spiritual authority of original peoples regarding the land. (I thought that was a nice example of prayerful listening leading to action.) 

Lisa: It wasn’t so much policy changes, as it was conscious decisions on the parts of leaders of the time to submit themselves to the authority of the first peoples of their regions when making decisions about where their regional and national conferences were to be held. For example, I directed a racial healing conference in Greater Los Angeles called “One God, Many Nations” in 2004. Richard Twiss (Lakota author of One Church, Many Tribes) was a new mentor in my life at the time. He agreed to serve as our keynote speaker, but strongly advised us to seek the blessings of first people of the Los Angeles area where the conference would take place. I did. 

I called the office of the Gabrielino/Tongva Tribe of Los Angeles and spoke with a member of the tribal council. She didn’t understand my request, at first. I explained that I was a staff member of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in Los Angeles. We had come to recognize the spiritual authority that Creator God gave to all the first peoples of the land to serve as stewards and protectors of their appointed lands. We understand that the Tongva were the first peoples of Los Angeles. We would like to hold a racial healing conference on the land, but we understand the process is as important as the content of our gathering. In recognition of the spiritual authority of the Tongva people, we ask for the tribe’s blessing over our gathering. If granted, we would like to open our gathering with a traditional protocol ceremony. The tribal council member took my message to the council. Days later, she contacted me to let me know the people were moved by our humility and agreed to offer their blessing. The Chair of the Tongva council board attended our gathering. The Divisional Director of Intervarsity – Greater Los Angeles and I gifted the leader with a Pendelton blanket and sage. The Tongva chair offered his blessings over our gathering.

I continued to contact the Tongva council chair to ask for the council’s blessing for each large conference we convened until the chair said, “Lisa, you have shown yourself to be worthy of our blessing. We bless you to do whatever you would like to do in our land.” 

 The research that went into this project is impressive, and Forgive Us serves as an eye-opening introduction to the ways in which the Church supported exploitation, marginalization, and even ethnic cleansing throughout America’s history.  How did notion of “Manifest Destiny” in particular wreak havoc on creation and indigenous people? 

Mae: Manifest Destiny became a commonly held ideology in the early 19th century and was the belief that the United States had a God-given right to aggressively spread values of white civilization across the land mass of the North American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. It wreaked havoc on creation and entire communities of indigenous Americans including the Five Civilized Tribes, who were forcibly removed or annihilated based on the assumption that they were an impediment to God’s purposes being realized. Manifest Destiny justified the conquering of the indigenous peoples of Texas, New Mexico, California, and other parts of the Southwest; and the inclusion of the Oregon territory in the United States. Christians must confess the many ways we have contributed to this tragic history by acknowledging and repenting of our sins. We need to repent of our attitudes about the divine right of conquest, white supremacy, ethnic superiority, Manifest Destiny, the pursuit of wealth, and the brutalization, domination, and murder of thousands of Native people who have lived before us. 

 In addition to featuring sins against creation, indigenous people, African Americans and people of color, women, immigrants, and Jews and Muslims, you featured sins against the LGBTQ community. Was this a controversial decision? Why did you decide to include sins against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the book? 

Troy: When David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons shared their findings of how unchurched young people view the church in Unchristian, one of the most jarring critiques was that the church is, in their words, anti-homosexual. For us to engage the church and the culture in a relevant way, we simply could not avoid engaging the last forty years of hatred toward the LGBTQ community that for far too many has defined the church.

The decision to include this chapter was not controversial for the authors. We all agreed that we simply could not write this book and not address this horrible track record. That said, this was a risky chapter to include in the book for Zondervan, and we are very pleased they agreed to publish the book, including this important chapter of confession and repentance.

What are some practical ways churches can incorporate confession and lament into their worship? 

Soong-Chan: I am currently working on a commentary on the book of Lamentations and in that book I examine the absence of lament in the American church. Three different studies in different denominational traditions show that lament psalms and songs of lament are conspicuously absent in our liturgy, our hymnals, and our worship services. I attribute this disconnect to the tendency of triumphalism and exceptionalism that is strongly present in American Christianity. We jump to celebration rather than seek to stay in places of suffering and lament.

Our first step may be to acknowledge this gap and intentionally seek to introduce lament and confession into our worship life. What songs do we sing and why do we sing them? What psalms are read and towards what purpose? What sermon illustrations do we use? Are we always pointing out a happy ending of a triumphant faith or are we introducing places and stories of suffering that are not so easily resolved. In some cases, it may be a more rigorous examination of our liturgy and a more intentional usage of lament in Scripture reading and songs. How do we introduce stories of pain in our community to our worship? When an event like Ferguson occurs, do we quickly jump to it'll be fine, justice will be served or do we cry out as a community in solidarity with a community that is suffering. What testimonies are being shared? Are they not only the stories of triumph and victory but also stories of ongoing pain and struggle? How are churches intentionally introducing what may be considered places of disruption in order to bring about change?

***


For more on Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith, join the Google Hangout with the authors on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. ET.

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