Is your congregation liberal or conservative? The man asked me the dreaded question right there in the middle of the coffee shop. This conversation got serious fast. We had only been chatting for a bit after I told him I was a pastor. I know he was trying to get a feel for the church and my brand of theology. I told him we were an open table church. So, is your church liberal or conservative?
Brian McLaren writes that we “have intelligence on ice and ignorance on fire” in today’s religious landscape and by and large he is correct. It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly we begin defining ourselves and more importantly God with neat lines and definitions. We don’t dare venture outside those boxes we put ourselves into for fear of being labeled. You love and are passionate about Jesus,you must be an evangelical. You believe its okay to read the Bible with a critical eye towards context. You must be a progressive. Where is the line? I suspect that the terms that us “insiders” cling to like a life raft mean very little to those outside of our institutions, except to serve as a turn off. Are we more in love with our theology than we are with God and God’s mission and call upon us?
It’s a futile act to try and reduce this beautiful, wonderful, life-giving and even terrifying mystery we call faith to a simple term or two. In doing so, we are closing off so many possibilities for ourselves and our communities. One of the roles of pastor is that of public theologian. For me, a large portion of this calling is helping people to do their own theology (God-talk) on a daily basis. Could it be that we do our best theological work while also doing our best to follow the way of Jesus? Why are we afraid to let God’s movement of love and grace in our lives and churches stand on its own? Why can’t justice for all, compassion, and working together towards God’s shalom speak for itself?
It’s what Jesus would do, I told him. Best I can tell, God welcomes us all. An open table means that all are welcomed and there are no litmus tests of faith or labels. God meets us where we are on our journey and continues that journey with us. There is room enough for me and there is room enough for you. There is room for everyone.