Grace Emerges

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Open Church Initiative

the Open Church initiative
progressive Christianity for the global neighborhood

Hello all!  I am starting a new project called the Open Church Initiative.  The purpose is to start a discussion, and set a "Trajectory" for the church to embrace a more open-minded approach to the Bible and to other people, in order to truly partner with God to bring the kingdom of heaven to the world we live in.

We're on Facebook!  Contribute to the conversation at:

I have a goal and a vision of creating a collaborative document that describes an "open" church.  I need your help!  Please comment or email.  What are the core beliefs?  How can local churches participate?

To start with, I would also appreciate any comments and feedback on the Core Values and Beliefs, below.  Take a look and help make it better.  

Thanks!  Brad

Core Values and Beliefs
In this note, the core values and beliefs of the Open Church initiative are described.  They are intended to be as broad as possible to lower the barrier to entry across a broad range of faith backgrounds, while casting a vision of where the church is going.  Think of each value as a “Trajectory”, a path toward a loftier vision.  If you are agreeing to join us on this path, to explore where it will lead, then you are a part of the Open Church initiative.  There is no hurdle or target you must achieve to accept these values, as long as you are willing to embrace the direction they are leading.  "Trajectory" not "Destination".

Open Mind
The Bible represents the story of God’s interaction with people through certain times in history, and this interaction continues today even in our own lives.  With an Open Mind, we seek to understand God and truth itself through these interactions.  We listen more than speak, we embrace our own limited experience and view of reality, we accept other viewpoints as valid, and we value discussions.  We apply our Mind to grapple with the mysteries of God, and embrace faith as guiding the Mind instead of limiting it by forcing blind acceptance of facts and ideals.  We view God’s revelation of himself to people as something he completely controls and may choose to increase at any time in history.  We view God as the primary worker for and force behind change, truth, and the relationship between himself and people.  We view God’s Mind as deliberate, thoughtful, inquisitive, creative, complex, and unknowable except as he chooses to reveal it.  Our Mind was created by him, and in many ways is similar to his.  With an Open Mind, we can listen to God and to each other and grow in our understanding of truth.  

Open Arms
The Bible teaches us of God’s hand which is open in an offer of friendship and relationship with us.  It shows God’s immense patience with us in spite of our flaws, and acceptance of all those that call upon him.  When Jesus came, he taught lessons against elitist religious systems that created barriers to acceptance.  He taught that judging others is unjust.  He taught that only he has the authority to judge, and then he used that authority to open up grace to all people through his inclusive, pervasive work to defeat evil and death by dying on the cross.  To follow his example we must be generously, deliberately, boldly welcoming to all people, setting the example for the rest of the world in our ability to appreciate diversity.  This Openness cuts across all barriers including gender, ethnicity, culture, religion, tradition, sexual orientation, ideals, and life choices -- people we agree with and people we don't.  We do not believe that the Bible is correctly understood and utilized to create barriers of acceptance due to differences, whether those differences occur by choice, by ideals or by birth.  Instead, we believe that God calls us to a higher standard where we must accept all people as we are in fact accepted by him in spite of our own flaws, choices, ideals and uniqueness.  In fact, we believe that God values our differences and is able to use them to allow us unique opportunities to further his kingdom.  Even harder than loving our enemies, is loving those we don't understand.

Open Eyes
The Bible teaches of principles that guide the lives of believers during this life on this Earth and with the people around us.  These principles show us how to resist evil, to make right choices, to fight injustice, to feed the hungry, to aid those in need, to liberate those in chains, and to spread God’s grace to all people.  As the church, we take responsibility for the truth that we carry, and we take ownership of our unique task to build God’s kingdom on this Earth.  We Open our Eyes to the world around us, to the pain and need that is evident in every community and corner of the world.  We join forces with other believers to take a stand, to organize, to invest, to influence, and to lead, in order to achieve tangible improvements in the quality of life and knowledge of God’s goodness in this world.  We Open our Eyes to see that a kingdom of ideals and faith alone is not effective in taking care of our responsibility.  We choose to care and choose to act, driven by our ideals and faith.  We choose to implement God’s love and not only to proclaim it.  We view the Great Commission as not only a call to proclaim the message of Jesus, but also to act on it, bringing God's goodness to every community, nation and corner of the Earth.  

Open Spirit
The Bible teaches us of God’s desire to relate to people.  We believe that God’s ultimate desire and call for us is to respond to him by opening our spirit to accept him and by relating to him.  We believe in an active and present God that longs to and indeed will, interact with us in our daily lives, guiding us and working for our good and for the good that we can bring to others.  We believe that God shares truth with us through his connection to our spirit.  To hear his truth and direction we must be Open to him.  We must view his working as current and not just described in stories of the past.  We cannot appreciate him today by only relating to stories of yesterday.  God can and will guide us in new directions, new revelations, and new truths that were not available to people before.  God simply calls us to respond to him, with an Open Spirit, and to engage in intimate relationship with him.  Through this relationship, God will bring us to a place of spiritual maturity where we better understand his truth, act more consistently for good instead of evil, and more readily accept others as he accepts them.

Open Choice
We are created beings, designed by God.  In his design, God endowed us with a creative mind that is capable of complex choices involving facts, feelings, and spiritual ideals, so that we can justly lead the course of our lives to bring about his goodness in our relationships and interaction with the world.  We have frequent choices Open to us, that may have long-terms consequences in affecting other people for good or evil.  This creates the opportunity for sin, which is broadly understood from the Bible as the evil things we do to each other.  Therefore it creates a responsibility for us to use our choices to bring good into the world, to fight injustice, and to speak the truth.  We choose to respond to God through intimate relationship, or to avoid him and act in our own interest.  God designed us this way, as a path to creating the realities of Love, Freedom, Righteousness, and Relationship, none of which would be possible without freedom of Choice.  If God’s highest calling is intimate relationship, his greatest gift to us is freedom to choose that relationship.

Open Future
The Bible describes an unpredictable story, based on actions of an unpredictable God.  If we lived in a past time, we could not have, through wise interpretation of scripture, ever predicted or imagined the world as it now exists.  God has plans, but he does not choose to reveal them in a clear way through prophets or documents.  We see that we are endowed with freedom of choice, so we estimate that God’s plans for us are largely determined by our own choices, whether on an individual level or on a community, national or global scale.  To provide a clear example, if the world’s people make a choice to mitigate cancer, AIDS, and other diseases, they will invest time and money into research that will fight these diseases.  Our choices change the future as we find treatments and cures!  By searching for lower cost solutions (and compassionate aid) we make those treatments and cures available to more people.  God’s role as the author of all truth, and as the voice of goodness and freedom in the world, should not be underestimated.  We don’t do good things in spite of God’s work, we do it through God’s work.  Therefore it is our responsibility to answer the needs of the world through planning for a better future.  We need a comprehensive, serious vision of a world with less hunger, disease, slavery, pain, and injustice.  We can help lead the world to this brighter future, partnering with anyone that will join us, and by doing so help bring about the kingdom of God on Earth.  

The Theology of Freedom

Freedom is essential to the nature of God.  Jesus came to free everyone who suffers (Luke 4:18).

God in his freedom, made and makes choices about how to interact with us, (created us, loves us, relates to us, came to Earth in the flesh as Jesus, involves himself in our lives, answers our requests, shows us his wisdom, connects to us through the Holy Spirit).

God in his freedom, made us in his own image, a picture of Freedom.  We can choose to relate to God, choose to care about others, choose to be unselfish, choose to grow.     In his design, God endowed us with a creative mind that is capable of complex choices involving facts, feelings, and spiritual ideals.

Freedom in the gospel: The gospel message proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and others, was essentially a proclamation of Liberation, of freeing the captives, of opening the mind to a new truth that frees us, opening the keys to the kingdom of heaven where we are free and privileged as God's children.

Freedom is what we offer to others when we accept them unconditionally, when we care about their point of view, their thoughts, their needs.  Freedom is when we stand up for injustice and free others from oppression, hate, unfair expectations, unethical work practices, exploitation, literal chains.

Freedom is all of those things: the choices we make, the nature we were given, the authority of God to offer salvation, the liberation we receive under God's spirit, the love we show others, our relationship with God, and the kingdom of heaven itself.

Freedom is choices.  God designed us this way, as a path to creating the realities of Love, Freedom, Righteousness, and Relationship, none of which would be possible without freedom of Choice.  If God’s highest calling is intimate relationship, his greatest gift to us is freedom to choose that relationship, and the freedom to make the world a better place by liberating others!

The opposite of Freedom?  Slavery, for one.  But also judgment, control, elitism, hate, prejudice, closed social systems, rejection, bigotry.  Religion itself can be a system of control rather than a liberating force.  But as God-lovers, Christ-believers, Spirit-followers and as the global church of God's children, we can fight injustice, and by doing do, partner with God to bring his kingdom on Earth.  

16Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath. When he stood up to read from the Scriptures, 17he was given the book of Isaiah the prophet. He opened it and read,    18"The Lord's Spirit
   has come to me,
   because he has chosen me
   to tell the good news
   to the poor.
   The Lord has sent me
   to announce freedom
   for prisoners,
   to give sight to the blind,
   to free everyone
   who suffers,
    19and to say, `This is the year
   the Lord has chosen.' "
    20Jesus closed the book, then handed it back to the man in charge and sat down. Everyone in the meeting place looked straight at Jesus.
    21Then Jesus said to them, "What you have just heard me read has come true today."

(Luke 4: 16-21), CEV

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

This radical Christian's ministry for the poor, The Simple Way, has gotten him in some trouble with his fellow Evangelicals. We asked him to address those who don't believe.
By Shane Claiborne

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.

Read more:

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Call Goes Out for a More Open Church

by Brad D.

Last week I put out a call for repentance for the church, in the article, Church in a Trance: Full-Length Article, where I called the church to grow along the lines of Responsibility, Acceptance, Freedom, and Response.  

Churches of all traditions can respond to this call if they are open to it.  The call is going out for a more open church:

Open Eyes: Open our eyes to the world that we live in, and how to work with God to make it a better place, transforming it into his kingdom.  Open our eyes to injustice, pain and need, and take action as God's representatives and partners.  Open our eyes to the truth that we as a church have often neglected our responsibility to the world.

Open Arms: Open our arms to people because they belong to God and not because they adhere to our ideals and stereotypes.  Accept people because God accepts us and them.  Deliberately and generously welcome them.  Offer kindness, support, friendship and belonging.  Refrain from offering advice, judgment and enforcement of homogeneity.  Open our hearts to love people and find the treasure that compounds in our own lives.  Through open arms, manufacture Freedom and destroy Control.

Open Mind: Open our minds to being wrong and discussing the truth.  With so many "right" people with very different opinions (particularly about the interpretation of the Bible) we can't all be right, in fact we can't agree on many fundamentals.  Take a good look at the church's beliefs and its many variations.  Take a good look at those calling for a more progressive, open-ended interpretation to Biblical truth.  We need to work out our salvation and place in God's kingdom through much thoughtful consideration.  When we don't do this we actually blind our eyes to truth instead of embracing it as something to be obtained the hard way.  Don't accept easy interpretations based on tradition.  Teach each other by challenging each other and discussing the truth as you see it.  Treasure the Conversation that engages your mind.

Open Spirit: Open our spirits to Respond to God in the current age in a unique way compared to previous points in history.  God is calling.  His call brings us to new places and new maturity, leading to a new understanding of him. His call is not a repeating litany but a new fresh voice.  He calls his people.  He yearns for us.  He challenges us.  He wants to reveal himself and truth itself.  Open our spirits to hear him above our traditions and traditional views of truth. Seek and then don't be surprised when you Find!

My prayer is for a new trend, where different traditions of Christian believers open their eyes, arms, hearts and spirits in whatever ways they can based on their willingness and starting point.  It will take work to open our doors where they have been shut for so long, and any steps toward progress should be counted as an achievement!

Do you have stories of how openness has transformed believers and churches?  Send them to me or post as a comment....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ponderings on a Faith Journey: Process Theology and the Quest for Justice (Bruce...

repost from:  Ponderings on a Faith Journey: Process Theology and the Quest for Justice (Bruce...: "

Process Theology and the Quest for Justice (Bruce Epperly)

I started a conversation with the question: Does God care about Justice? There are a number of reaons why I'm doing this, but perhaps most importantly this conversation raises the question as to what our calling is as God's people in the world. Am I called to acts of compassion only, or am I called to seek to change the social realities that marginalize people and work to destroy the world in which we live? To me, justice has to do with (to quote the Disciples mission statement) seeking to bring wholeness to a fragmented world. Regarding the first -- I see the kinds of responses that church folk offer to the people of Joplin or Japan. Regarding the latter (justice) I see working to change systems that dehumanize folks. Both are important and even essential, and belong together. In that regard, Bruce Epperly offers some thoughts about justice from the perspective of Process Theology as part of his series on that topic. I invite you to read and respond.(more...)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ponderings on a Faith Journey: Why Progressive Theology Is Important? (Bruce Epp...

repost from: Ponderings on a Faith Journey: Why Progressive Theology Is Important? (Bruce Epp...: "For the past couple of months, Bruce Epperly has been introducing readers to aspects of Progressive Theology. Although in some ways I may b..."

Here is an excerpt from Bruce Epperly that describes progressive Christianity:

I believe progressive Christianity preaches, teaches, and transforms. Where there is no one progressive theology, there are a number of progressive theological distinctives that speak to the needs of a diverse, interconnected, dynamic, and uncertain world. These are not creeds to be accepted without question or doctrines that require assent in order to escape divine punishment, but pathways to deepening our encounter with God and one another.

  • God is lively, active, relational, and loving.
  • God seeks wholeness and healing for all creation.
  • God welcomes diversity in its many forms, including ethnic, spiritual, sexual, and theological diversity.
  •  Other faiths reveal God’s presence; and can illuminate our experience as Christians.
  • The gospel of Jesus transforms our lives by revealing new possibilities for faithfulness and giving us the energy to change the world.
  • Our calling is follow the pathway of Jesus in its focus on healing and wholeness, justice, personal transformation, and Shalom.
  • Wherever truth and healing are present, God is its source, regardless of its origins; medicine, science, and other religious traditions reveal divine insight.
  • God calls us to freedom and creativity in the context of an open-ended universe.
  •  The future is open and we have a role in shaping it.
  • We are God’s partners in healing the world.
  • God’s salvation embraces all creation; everlasting life is God’s gift to all humanity.

I believe that progressive Christianity provides alternative visions of salvation, evangelism, religious diversity, and human liberation that speak to seekers and pilgrims in our time. 

    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Join the Boston Faith & Justice Network and Not For Sale Campaign for a free screening of The Whistleblower, starring Academy Award Winners Rachel Weisz & Vanessa Redgrave. Based on true events, the film chronicles the story of how a United Nations peacekeeper uncovers string of events implicating multi-national organizations engaged in sex-trafficking and other human rights abuses. Following the screening, BFJN and Not For Sale will facilitate an audience discussion about specific ways that you can flight human trafficking in Massachusetts.
    This free screening will be held at the Kendall Square Cinema on Wednesday, August 17th at 7 PM. The film premeres in Boston on Friday, August 19th – don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the film before the general public. Our screening is free but reservation of tickets is required. More event details and directions on how to reserve your free tickets is included here 

    Waking the Church to Just Consumerism

    Here's a recent post about fair trade and the church:

    by Ryan Scott McDonnell 06-10-2011

    The Hebrew scriptures recount time and again how God blesses the earth with enough provision and food for its inhabitants.  The same is true of our world today — there is more than enough to sustain a nourished and abundant life for all. However, our world often breaks away from God’s vision of shalom for God’s people.  The machinations of humans devise and implement ways to pervert God’s call and design for just economic systems in ways that instead keep the powerful rich at the expense of the poor.

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    Church in a Trance: Full-Length Article

    Church in a Trance

    [note to readers, a shortened version of this article was featured on  Church in a Trance]


    Growth and improvement are fundamental to faith.  The concepts taught in the Bible naturally make us better if we learn them and apply them, but it takes time.  Growth happens through a continual process.  Maturity takes time, but this is no cause for alarm or disgust.  We can live at peace with growth – not ever content that we’ve arrived, but keeping our progress in perspective.  We can be happy, even comfortable, with growth.

    I’ve always felt that the church, like the Christian, is in a state of constant growth and improvement.  I imagined that the church would continue to change and improve, ridding itself of old ways and ideas, methods and prejudices, ever growing into a better representation of Christ on Earth.  When people complained about some flaw in the church I often found myself agreeing with them, and believing that through constant growth the church would rectify the flaws.  We should keep doing what we’re doing, just keep trusting God, and just keep growing, and eventually we’ll achieve great things.

    But some change comes a different way.   When John the Baptist proclaimed his message, he called his listeners to repentance, that is, a complete turn-around rather than incremental change.  When we realize that we’re on the wrong path, we should stop, look at a map, re-evaluate, leave our current path and take the right road. 

    As I’ve written before, I believe the church is at a crossroads where the basic foundation of beliefs must change.  The religious system that currently stands today must adapt to new beliefs.  We need to re-evaluate everything we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.  This is not growth or incremental change, this is repentance.  We’ve made the church into our own kingdom.  To make it into God’s kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, we need true repentance.  To find true repentance we need a true vision, a vision of where we should be going, so we can turn around, and go that way! 

    I want to call the church to repentance through a vision of the future.  I’ll give it a shot…

    The Trance

    The church is in a trance.  We sleep.  We indulge.  We self-perpetuate.  We shelter ourselves.  We exclude others.

    We fight a few battles but they are the wrong ones, battles which serve to lobby for our own interests but fail to respond to God’s calling.

    We invest a tremendous amount of resources (time, money, talents, influence) to establish our own kingdom.   In my view one of the best ways to see the error we’re making is to look at how we’re investing our resources, and to see what this investment is yielding.  So, what we are doing with our resources?  We’re using them to organize, to staff and to equip our church communities to function.  We invest a large percentage of our resources in producing weekly worship services, running offices, organizing child care, planning events, and creating outbound communications (both for sharing spiritual thoughts and advertising our calendar).  In summary we organize ourselves to produce worship services, communications and events.  Of course we do, that’s the business of running a church community.  That’s how we keep the lights on.  Our members want such services and are investing in the local church to maintain these activities.   What we are building with these resources is more of a religious system than a God-seeking endeavor.  I call it “our own kingdom”.

    We also raise money to fund external activities and missions in foreign countries, but how much of our effort is simply trying to duplicate our own religious system in these other locations vs. investing in making the world a better place?

    So, what’s wrong with investing in a religious system?  We’re in a trance.  We’re doing a dance where we just follow along and keep doing activities, but in getting caught up with these activities, we’re avoiding much of the real meat of kingdom life, like nurturing relationships, responding to God’s calling, and helping the world.  What if there was a way to spend 10% of our time administrating, organizing, and producing a religious environment, and the other 90% investing in real living? 

    The Vision

    Here’s a vision of what this could look like, organized around some key “vision” words: Responsibility, Acceptance, Freedom, and Response.

    Responsibility: The global church is a massive group of people with a common thread: faith and the work of the Holy Spirit.  We should recognize the tremendous resource we have, and realize the tremendous responsibility we have to utilize this resource for the common good.   Too often we view the world outside the church as messy, ugly, transient and doomed.  We wash our hands of it and do our own thing!  Well, what if what Jesus meant by the Great Commission and by the example of his life was more comprehensive than just spreading a message?  What if it meant “start a fire that transforms the whole Earth into my kingdom”?  What if it meant to care, not just to preach and judge.    What if our concept of the end of the world is wrong or off by thousands of years?  What if Jesus, through the work of the Holy Spirit, is planning to make this place we live in into something amazing and is willing to take 10,000 or 100,000 years to do it?  On universal time scales of formation of planets and life and death of stars, this is still a tiny instant in the cosmos, a flash of drama and vibrance in the universe.  If this is his plan, we need to wake up and get with the plan! 

    We’re largely ignoring the world around us, while people are hurting and need real love, relationships, and material help.  If we close our eyes to the world we are not offering any of those things.  No matter how much we preach about “love”, if we love only ourselves the rest of the world is not getting any benefit.  What if we turned the global church into a global “world improvement” movement.  I don’t mean improving the world into our own image of a giant religious system, I mean investing our time, money and effort in really caring, really transforming, really fighting injustice. 

    In business terms this kind of responsibility is also called “Ownership” or “Empowerment.”  Give the people in the organization a sense of how their organization depends on them, their ideas and efforts, to meet the overall vision.  The church should function like a grassroots organization, globally mobilized with individuals taking ownership, individuals empowered, to make a difference where they are and around the world. 

    In social terms, this kind of responsibility is also called “Maturity.”  When a person is a child the world revolves around his wants, needs, fears, and his desire for comfort.  We don’t relate with anyone out of compassion or selflessness, but instead relate out of our own self interest.  We do this innocently and don’t realize this until we grow up and have to face responsibility.  At that time we change our mission to achieve the greater good of our family, like getting a job, keeping the house, changing diapers, etc.  As we grow further in maturity, hopefully we realize that the world is bigger than our family and we try to give back to our community, notice the needs of our neighbors, fight against injustice we see around us, and help to lead others to have a common vision.  Can the church grow up now?  Can we move from childish, shallow, self-focused behavior, to a more mature outlook where we see that the world needs us?  There’s no downside.  If we grow up, wake up, and care, we better accomplish everything Jesus called us to.  If we invest less in our weekly religious activities to do this, I really don’t think he’ll mind!  After, isn’t true worship to care for widows and orphans?  In a trance, we still define true worship as a heart-gripping song.  Church, it’s time to wake up and snap out of the trance.  Time for some Responsibility.

    Acceptance: This is a hard word when we really mean it.  A harder to define spiritual word that essentially means the same thing is “Grace.”  Grace is what happened when God decided to accept us, to offer relationship to us, and to love us unconditionally.  He used his supreme authority to offer us a promise of friendship.  Since he did that while we were messy, ugly, and self-absorbed, it means that he accepted us the way we are.  He didn’t put other conditions on his offer.  That’s what we mean by Grace.  Christians throughout time have struggled with the definitions of salvation, atonement and grace, and there are MANY opinions of when and how our good standing with God comes about.  However I really feel that the traditional salvation message that says “we are rejected and doomed for punishment, and when we ask for forgiveness then we become perfect and therefore acceptable to God”, is not consistent with the message of Christ.  He came to rescue the prisoners and offer them full access to himself and the Holy Spirit.  He infused the naked hurting world with goodness, available to anyone and everyone!  No strings attached.  How can Grace ever mean “conditional love”?  If it’s unconditional then it can’t depend on our lifestyle, our set of ideals, our frequency of reading the Bible, our participating in a local church, or our frequency of committing “A-list” sinful behaviors!  As Jesus said regarding the harlot, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” 

    This means the “regular” sins of self-indulgence, prejudice and arrogance were at the same level as the “A-list” sins like prostitution.  Do we treat regular and A-list sinners the same?  Don’t we all have lists of unacceptable and acceptable people?  Do you realize that based on the typical ideals of the church, we are perfectly fine with accepting a selfish man who leaves his family to marry another woman, but we reject the poor single mother who decides to move in with her boyfriend?  How can we ever have lists of rules that make people good enough for our acceptance?  If we are so worried about being corrupted by other people, we should be more concerned about the arrogant childish people we hang out with, than the moral implications of A-list sins (like sleeping with your boyfriend).  I’m not justifying wanton sinful behavior, I’m advocating a new concept for us wanton judgmental types, called “Acceptance”.  We should accept people the way they are.  On the other hand, we should NOT accept hate and injustice.  This would be inconsistent with our ideals of unconditional love.  I would be more agreeable to kicking someone out of church for their prejudices and hateful words, than for their moral correctness.  However, love and grace compels me to put up with those people too, and to try my best to include them in our community, since I have my own similar flaws.   Maybe through a better example from me, and if I speak up against injustice, I can help the prejudiced hateful person to change.

    So what does Acceptance look like?  It means that we look at people the way that God does.  We lavish love and goodness on the world, without regard to who will receive it.  We see the potential of all people to be in a relationship with God and to respond from their point of pain and shame, to God’s offer of eternal friendship.  If we do this, we can NO LONGER make our churches bastions of moral rightness.  Invite everyone, judge no one!  Lavish love on all people and partner with them to make the world a better place.  This should not be controversial theology, but unfortunately many of us have been taught to hate and to be caught up in legal arguments of moral rightness.  If Jesus cared to the point of accepting others with unconditional love, why can’t we? 

    How much more influence and positive effect on the world could we achieve with this type of truly loving attitude?

    Freedom:  With acceptance and responsibility we unlock the true meaning of salvation.  The word “salvation” means some sort of liberation, leading to “freedom!”  Freedom from what?  Well that depends on what has you captive.  For many of us in the church tradition, we are captured in a trance of self-indulgence, and a cycle of judgment and hate based on idealistic moral rightness.  On the other hand, many people in the world are captured by tangible chains like addiction, exploitation, poverty and hunger, and sickness with lack of access to health care.  Broadly, the majority of people in the world are captured by the evil behavior of others, including neglect, abuse, intolerance, harsh work ethic and unkind treatment.  People are trapped in relationships and economic situations.  They need kindness, education, opportunity, support, access to basic health care, or advocates to free them from oppressive exploitation.  Carrying the true message of Freedom to the ends of the Earth means liberating people from the evil caused by others, and working as hard as possible to fight harsh living conditions.

    What does Freedom look like in our own relationships?  We can practice salvation, liberation, freedom in our own dealings with other people.  When we accept them the way they are, and empower them to partner with us for a common cause, we can liberate them to make their own choices, to choose how to relate to God, how to make a difference, and how to reduce the pain and evil in the world that they can control through their own actions.  When we offer Freedom to our children, we teach them to be adults (eventually) who value the opinions of others and can choose their own direction in life, their own contribution in the world, instead of forcing them to comply with a huge set of expectations.  When we offer Freedom inside the church community, we release people from following rules, and treat each other as partners to achieve a common cause.  We can organize ourselves, mobilizing to each contribute where we are able.  No longer should we use our church resources to bring about conformity.

    What’s the opposite of Freedom?  I call it “Control.”  The reason I am so serious about the church’s need for repentance is how it has used its position to control the masses.  Control is about expectations, judgment, threat of rejection, and compliance to group norms.  Control requires a System of Control.  A System with a hierarchy of power, elitism, norms and enforcement of those norms.  The church has been particularly susceptible to the lure of Control because of a wrong understanding of Grace.  We think Grace means compliance, earning God’s acceptance.  On the other hand if Grace is unconditional acceptance, then we find ourselves in the wrong, in desperate need of repentance ourselves.  We realize that WE are the sinners who have wandered onto the wrong path by using our resources to create a System to propagate our own idealism. 

    The System of Control is our own kingdom.  The System of unconditional acceptance, and therefore Freedom, is the kingdom of heaven.  Which kingdom will we invest in?

    Response: So, what does God really want?  He went to a lot of trouble to offer friendship to us.  He came to Earth as a man and died on the cross to make a way for us.  What is his Will?  We often justify all of our choices by saying we’re doing God’s Will, meaning what we think the Holy Spirit is guiding us to do or what our interpretation of the Bible dictates that we should do.  What does God really want?  I broadly call what God really wants, “Response.”  If you are a married man, what does your wife really want?  Does she want compliance?  Does she want slavery, good works, usefulness from you?  Maybe sometimes, but she will tire of robotic slavery quickly if you don’t respond to her need for relationship.  When she offers you her love, what does she want?  A Response! 

    What we often call worship is better called a Response to God’s offer of love.  He wants a friend.  He wants to relate.  He wants to partner with us.  He would LOVE to have a relationship that matures beyond a childish self-absorbed lop-sided relationship (like a child with its mother), and move to a relationship of mutual choices, truth, sharing, and partnership for a common cause.  God is WAY above us, but he offers to be our partner and friend, more like a PEER.  A mature relationship with God comes from taking responsibility and not just robotically following steps that seem like God’s Will.  Like your wife, God is not thrilled with endless songs of adoration.  He would rather have your honesty and time.  He would rather work WITH you on a common cause then have you work FOR him as a tireless slave.  Do you think the angels in heaven really sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” all the time with nothing else interesting going on?  If you were in heaven with God, is that what you would do?  What would God want you to do as his best friends?  I think it would be time for a great banquet!  With lots of relating and catching up, lots of honest communication! 

    God really wants a relationship.  That was his offer of Salvation.  It’s an offer of acceptance and friendship.  It requires that we walk in the Freedom of our own choices and personality.  It requires that we acceptance differences and flaws in others.  It requires that we GROW UP and take some real Responsibility.  

    It is just impossible to relate to God while we’re still in the Trance.  It’s time to wake up and grow up.  It’s time to repent.  Can we change?  God is waiting for our Response.

    Brad D.

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Email me your ideas...

    I've started a new blog called Grace Emerges.  URL is

    If you have ideas on how the church can better embrace freedom and acceptance, how it can better fight injustice, and how it can restructure to better fulfill it's calling as the kingdom of heaven, please email me  @ and I'll post it to this blog.

    Look forwarding to hearing from you!

    from Brad D. (aka "")