A Few Reflections on the Challenges Confronting the Church

Ironically, what comes to mind first is something I've learned to appreciate by being married for 12 years to a lifelong Quaker. The Quakers believe there is that of God in everyone. That means that I must approach every human being with respect – especially those with whom we are likely to disagree or those of whom we might be afraid. This is pretty tough work, both in the Church and out.

  • Mission through Partnership   The Church must be at work in a hurting world. One of the best ways I've found to do that is through our Presbyterian commitment to Mission through partnership. Mission through partnership is scary and it takes some courage, because it's all about building relationships in which I, as well as my counterpart, might be changed. It is a constant, somewhat uncomfortable possibility that God might surprise me.
  • Stop the violence   In the post-September 11, 2001 world, the Church and the challenge of Christ's uncompromising demand that we love our enemy has never been more necessary than it is right now. Nonviolence as a way of life will take huge courage, both in our everyday lives, as a Church, and as a nation.
  • Bring on the next generation   Our Church's future depends largely on members who commit to working in the world in a way that is meaningful and that costs something. Jesus was a young upstart who was not welcomed by the religious authorities of his own time. We need to welcome young people into the leadership of our churches, and accept the challenges they put before us.

  • Let's be leaders in building the global community   How we build a global community to match the global economy will be the defining challenge for our Church for the next several generations. An economy that is built on desperation and poverty for eighty percent of the world's population - in order to provide in abundance for the remaining twenty percent - is obscene, and it will not work. Jesus certainly had something to say about empire economics in his own time, and our Church must have the courage to do the same in our time.

When I think about Matthew 25 and the story of how God will judge all the nations on how they cared for Jesus, for the "least of these" in their midst, I think especially of the situation for migrants in our world today. As our country affirms trade agreements which force third world farmers off their land and into a desperate search for employment to support their families, we create a steady flow of undocumented migrants who risk starvation, thirst, and even death as they attempt to cross the border. They have nothing, are part of no community, have no significant legal rights, and are easy prey for those who would take advantage of them. Symbolically, seeing Jesus in the face of each migrant has the potential to transform our church and our world in ways that only God can imagine.

Finally, my mentor Jim Corbett used to say that "individuals can resist injustice, but it takes community to do justice." This is the heart of why we must do this work as Church. Together, as we listen carefully to one another and strengthen one another's ideas and commitment, we can do God's work in the world.