Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Comprises the Value of Diversity & the Importance of Public Temples

If the church holds a value of diversity, what comprises that value?

Does it mean diversity of...

  • theological perspective?
  • economic status?
  • ethnicity?
  • age?
  • sexual orientation?
  • physical abilities?
  • mental abilities?
  • some of the above?
  • all of the above?
  • none of the above?
  • something else?
I base the following reflection that the church is a public place, not an agency of the State, but a place where anyone may gather and consider the questions, activity, and presence of God without fear. With that consideration, people may be inspired to pursue these questions more deeply, and act toward the well-being of neighbor and self. Whereas the church I serve may exist in partnership with the neighborhood, we offer particular lenses to look at the world. We look at the world through Christ, the Bible, and we are influenced by the Lutheran-Christian tradition. This is not to say I or my congregation does this perfectly--only that these are the most faithful beginning points I recognize and employ as an ordained pastor.

My expectation is with the church existing as a public place, I seek a church that is a reflection of the neighborhood. A church that reflects the neighborhood does not happen overnight, and I often wonder if the DNA of my partner Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregations make it less likely we can exist as public temples in our respective neighborhoods. A recent publication of a study on religious groups and racial diversity does not paint a positive picture of my denomination's work in a particular area. I know that the ELCA works toward the good of their neighbors; I only ask questions about the efficacy of that work (my own included).

The linked article and study keep me thinking. At times I have felt shame in what I read over the past 4 weeks. Yet I am once again inspired to ask the question of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, "who is my neighbor?" When I look at this illustrative story and the teaching of Jesus, in combination with a world filled with suspicion, I know that the work of a public temple that reflects the neighborhood is important to the well-being of my neighbor and me.

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