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.

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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.  

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