As I write this, you are on your way to Salt Lake City for General Convention. My heart is with you … but my heart is also aching. My heart is also filled with dread.
They are convinced that we as the church only care about ourselves. They are lit on fire when they hear of the Jesus who is a revolutionary, loving boldly and without bounds … but instead they mostly hear us preaching Jesus the respectable businessman, talking about Average Sunday Attendance, wringing our hands about building maintenance and hoping not to offend our biggest pledgers
And now, in the shadow of nine black people being murdered while studying the Bible in their church in Charleston, in the shadow of Ferguson, Cleveland, Baltimore, Madison, Atlanta, McKinney, and the list goes on, we are preparing to prove them right. We are preparing to have a convention that is almost exclusively focused on internal matters – the election of a presiding bishop, church restructuring, liturgy and budget.
And it makes my heart ache.
It makes my heart ache because I know we can do so much better. I know this convention is filled with people like you who have huge hearts for Jesus and who are courageous and who in your hearts if not yet in your bodies stand with these young women. And I remember 2006 when we took the dream of meeting Jesus in the lives of those living in extreme poverty and captured the hearts, imaginations and even the budget of the General Convention.
So I know that you know it can be done.
This is the moment God has given us. And we will either grasp it or it will pass us by. And it will never come again. Will we by how we spend this convention send the message that we are about ourselves … or will we proclaim loudly that we, like Jesus, are about giving ourselves for the life of the world.
Right now, some of you are planning for an Acts 8 Moment - a day of prayer and fasting for the church. That’s great. Proclaiming resurrection in the church is great. But if all that does is focus us on ourselves, it will be the death of the church, not the resurrection. And because resurrection needs death to come first, that’s probably just fine.
But what my heart longs for is an Exodus 3 moment.
I long for us to hear God saying:
“I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
I long for us to hear that voice of God in scripture and realize that is our call as well.
I long for us to take this gift of the gathering of some of the most brilliant and faithful minds, hearts and spirits in our church and use that gift to:
*Observe the misery of God’s people who are in bondage.
*Hear their cries on account of their taskmasters.
*KNOW their sufferings – with all the deep intimacy that verb connotes.
*Commit ourselves to the mission of deliverance and liberation.
I long for us to recognize that in that story, we as a predominately white, male-dominated, mainline church are much more Pharaoh than Israelite. That our institutions only have value if we recognize that they are the jewels and gold that God wishes to despoil from us to sustain the people in the wilderness on the journey to the promised land.
I long for us to recognize that our hearts have been hard but they need be hard no longer … but that will not happen unless we forswear the original sin of self-concern and, not with a well-written statement or a brief public handwringing, but with all that we have and all that we are commit ourselves to listening deeply to the voices who have been crying for too long and to, with all that we have and all that we are, honor them and follow the Jesus we meet in them.
And so I am praying for your courage, your passion and your love.
I am praying for you to find ways to stand up and change the agenda.
I am praying for you to call out our deep self-focus for the idolatry that it is and call us to the Gospel of one who didn’t even see equality with God as something to be grasped.
I am praying for you to use your privileged place to amplify and direct attention to the young, black voices on the streets so that the Jesus on their lips might be heard and followed. To proclaim with loud voices on the floors of convention that Black Lives Matter in a nation that leaves no doubt that this is not the case.
I am praying for you to not be afraid to upset a church that truly needs to be made upset, to bring discomfort to a church that is far too comfortable and to be agents of the Holy Spirit rousing the Body of Christ from her slumber.
I will help you any way I can from here in St. Louis, and I promise I will always stand by your side and I will always have your back.
You are some of my dearest friends, some of the people I most admire and love on this earth. And this moment is in your hands.
Please be the leaders I know you are. Please make this Exodus 3 moment happen. Please live your love for Jesus the revolutionary out loud.