For many years of my ministry, the Bishop and appointive cabinet of my denomination would ask each clergy person to state his/her theological position. Presumably, this had some bearing on matching the clergy with varied congregations in my part of Western Pennsylvania. Was I evangelical or liberal? Was I socially conservative or a social activist? Was I orthodox, neo-orthodox, existentialist, or progressive? Was I doctrinally straight or theologically skewed?
Part of me regularly rebelled at being “required” to label myself in some pre-determined category. I must confess that I enjoyed confounding this aspect of the appointive process by stating my “position” in some non-conforming or unconventional format. My favorite rendering to this question was a two word statement: I am a catalytic centrist.
Now 50 years from seminary graduation, having served three churches (plus one more while in seminary), and now seven years into retirement, I am comfortably convinced that this two-word description is one I can live with and boldly claim.
First, I am centrist. For me, this means that Jesus is at the center of who I am and what I deeply believe. I refuse to become entangled in the ancient/modern debates of Jesus' humanity/divinity. Rather, Jesus is the center point and circumference of my life. He is the still point of a turning world. He is the fulcrum on which my world is balanced. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the one through whom I have a fascinating glimpse into the nature and purpose of God.
When Jesus says, “He who has seen me has seen the father,” he means, “When you see me you know what God is like.” When he says, “I and the father are one,” he means, “I understand fully the nature and purpose of God.” When he says, “No one comes to the father but my me,” he means, “I bring you closer to God than anyone before or after me.”
Jesus is central. He is the most transforming human being who has ever lived. He is the ground upon which I now stand. And I am convinced that ground is rock solid.
Second I am catalytic. I believe that followers of Jesus can transform the world. The local church is the agent of that transformation—not as a street address or a building, but as a community of believers in the world. One of the best church signs I ever saw read something like this: “This church lives in the world, hopes in Jesus Christ, and meets in this building.”
I want to be catalytic. I also want to be part of a community of believers that dares to move people toward a new world view—which Jesus called the Kingdom.
Do you know who you are? Do you lead from that conviction?
June 24. 2014
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