Posts Tagged ‘the church’

Dear Sponsored Child

Dear Sponsored Child- How do we respond to World Vision's announcements??

The past two days have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Yesterday, health care World Vision, purchase a very well-known and well respected Christian organization that is “dedicated to working with children, epilepsy families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice,” announced that they would no longer discriminate against married same-sex couples during their hiring process.

The president of World Vision, Richard Stearns, said, “We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us. This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church. This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more.”

Many of you probably know that I am a big supporter of gay marriage and believe that there is a strong Biblical argument in support of gay relationships and marriages (I will be blogging in the near future about this issue, including reviews of the books Torn by Justin Lee and God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, which is coming out in April). So for me, this announcement was really exciting. I knew that this announcement would be really hard for many evangelical Christians to handle and that many would be disappointed and upset. What I did not expect was that these Christians would stop sponsoring their children as a result of this announcement. World Vision reportedly lost at least 2,000 sponsors in one day. That means that 2,000 children are now left without financial support, leaving them without adequate food, clean water, health care, and education, and also without the emotional and spiritual support that the children gain from the relationship with their sponsor.

Evangelicals, you sent the message loud and clear. Your hatred for gay people triumphs over the command of Christ to serve the least of these. You will stop at nothing to continue this culture war over an issue that Jesus did not say one word about. You will not hesitate to tell your gay brothers and sisters in Christ that the idea of working alongside them to bring God’s kingdom to earth is despicable. To you, the very existence of gay people is enough to stop providing for a sweet child of God.

Many Christian leaders, such as Justin Taylor of the Gospel Coalition and Denny Burk, professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made public statements against World Vision, announcing that they were ending their sponsorships. (Burk wrote a blog post talking about “The Collapse of Christianity at World Vision.” Seriously? The collapse?). The Assemblies of God denomination urged its members to drop financial support from World Vision.

And I sit here listening to Same Love by Macklemore.

“If you preach hate at the service those words aren’t annointed. That Holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”

Today, World Vision decided to reverse their decision. 

There are many amazing people who decided to sponsor children yesterday in support of World Vision’s announcement and to cover the children who were being dropped. Many of these people are gay. Many aren’t even believers.

I am so touched and encouraged to see that many of the people who sponsored kids yesterday will continue to sponsor them because they know that these kids are real people. They matter. They have hopes and dreams. They have the potential to live full and vibrant lives, they just need a little support to help them get there. And don’t we all?

I don’t sponsor a child through World Vision (although I regularly donate to various causes they support) but I do sponsor a child through Compassion International. Her name is Fresiah. She is 19, just like me. She lives in a rural village in Kenya, a country where much of the population is infected by HIV/AIDS and few girls finish high school. She loves basketball, her favorite book of the Bible is Ruth, she writes her letters to me in almost perfect English, she prays for my family and tells me about her day-to-day life. I am waiting to hear the results of her final exams, but I’m confident she did great. She wants to be a policewoman after she finishes high school. She is so beautiful and smart. I am so blessed to be a small part of her life and the idea of her sponsorship ending when she graduates breaks my heart. She is my friend. And no theological disagreement could stop me from sponsoring her.

When did it become Christ-like to use children as pawns in political, social, and cultural wars?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. -John 13:34-35

I can’t really put into words the depth of my sadness around this whole situation.

I want to honor Matthew Vines and his reaction to World Vision’s reversal. He shows a profound understanding of the love of Christ and God’s grace.

So I sit here with tears in my eyes and my hand over my tattoo. And I remember God’s promise.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Write these words down for they are trustworthy and true. -Revelation 21:5

Amen. They are trustworthy and true. God is making everything new. He will make everything new.

I pray for the release of His Kingdom on Earth.

I pray for the Holy Spirit to enter into the hearts of all followers of Christ.

I pray that the Church would be marked by love.

I repent of the anger and judgement in my heart and I pray, Holy Spirit, that you would help me love my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I pray for all the children around the world who are struggling to survive. I pray protection over them in the name of Jesus. I pray for provision for them, both emotionally and physically. Lord Jesus I pray they would known your unending love for them.

And Jesus, I pray that every single gay person who has been hurt by the Church, who has been hurt in the past few days, would know that You affirm them and love them.

Amen.

Many bloggers have written beautiful posts in the past few days. I encourage you to read them:

When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me by Benjamin Moberg

I’ve been sitting in a swell of sad for a couple hours, because this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.

These Are Real Kids, You Know by Nish Weiseth

I understand you may not agree with their employment standards as a Christian organization, but you know what? There’s a lot that we’re not all going to agree onBut, I think we can agree on one thing: Children should not have to suffer under the weight of poverty. And we can agree that World Vision is helping release kids from poverty through sponsorships. We can agree that your sponsorship dollars are doing an incredible amount of good in the life of a real, honest-to-goodness child. Someone’s baby is getting fed, educated and cared for because you have been generous in your sponsorship of that child. 
Please, I’m begging you, don’t make someone’s baby a pawn in the ongoing culture wars of American evangelicalism. Keep sponsoring. Keep praying for that kid. Keep giving.
Please, I’m begging you.
Choose love.

World Vision by Rachel Held Evans

When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something’s very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it’s wrong.
Finally, all this overdramatic “farewelling” over non-essential issues is getting tiresome. It’s shutting the door of the Kingdom in people’s faces. It’s tying up heavy burdens and placing them on people’s backs. It’s straining gnats and swallowing camels. It’s playing the gatekeeper with smug, self-righteous pride when it is God who decides who comes to the table, God who makes the guest list, God who opens the doors the Kingdom.

World Vision Update by Rachel Held Evans

A comment on this post:
“I sponsored a child because of their original decision. His name is also Daniel and he lives in the Dem Rep of the Congo, which co-incidentally, I am planning on traveling to in November (though I have no plans to see him.)
As a gay man, I am once again disappointed by the actions of some evangelical Christians. I have learned not to expect much from conservative Christianity and tend to give conservative Christians a wide berth. I want to reconcile. I am a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and remain a committed, Episcopalian, Christian. But I often feel like Charlie Brown when he tries to kick Lucy’s football when engaging evangelical Christians and this is no exception.
However, none of this is the the fault of the child I sponsored. I’m not going to unsponsor because they reversed their decision. It’s ultimately about the child’s welfare.”

Why Jesus Cares about “I, too, am Harvard” and you should, too

Why Jesus Cares About "I, <a href=tadalafil too, am Harvard" and You Should, Too” width=”600″ height=”600″ />

Disclaimer: I am a white person of privilege. This privilege does not come from socioeconomic status but simply from the color of my skin. The reality is that in America, I have a higher chance of being hired for a job than an equally qualified black woman. Once I have that job, I will be paid substantially less than an equally qualified white man but I will still be paid more than a woman of color in my same job position. Statistically, I also have a smaller chance of being raped than a woman of color or of mixed race. These are the privileges that the color of my skin afford me and the fact that it makes me sad doesn’t change anything about the situation. My goal in this post is start the conversation about the incredible racial injustice that still exists in America. These are the lives of my sisters and brothers. And they matter.

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The systematic racism that is prevalent in universities across the United States (and the world) have recently been brought to attention with campaigns such as “I, too, am Harvard.” The fact is that many white people in this country like to pretend that racism does not exist any more and yet for people of color, living in the midst of racism is just reality. As Ta-Nehisi Coates poignantly writes about America in this article, “Racism is just the wind, here. Racism is but the rain.”

The Church is not in any way exempt from or irrelevant in this conversation. How is it that the one place that is most supposed to affirm the beauty and identity of every single human being ends up being a place where people of color often end up feeling left out or misunderstood? Why is it that followers of Christ feel ok ignoring or even arguing against the reality of racism in our country and in our churches? Why is it that many white, wealthy, suburban churches who decide to start urban ministries don’t partner up with the pastors who have labored there for decades? The fact of the matter is that racism has infiltrated into the minds of many Christians and American churches. And yet racism is absolutely and completely opposed to Christ.

Every single human being on this earth is made in the image of God.

Racial segregation and prejudice have no place in our churches. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” –Galatians 3:28

We need to look at the places that we are still not living out that “oneness” in Christ Jesus. And we need to start bring the Holy Spirit into those places, into our conversations, into Sunday mornings and outreach ministries. The issue of how to include, listen to, and affirm the marginalized in society (which not only includes people of color but also the economically poor, gay people, women, drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless people, people of other religions, etc.) is what, I believe, should be the number one goal of the Church. Because, it seems to me, that this was one of Jesus’ main goals in His entire ministry…it’s certainly what He spent most of His time teaching and living out. We need to follow in His footsteps, to teach what He taught, to do what He did, because this is how we bring Shalom, this is how we call God’s Kingdom down.

Resources:

I, too, am Oxford

UCLA:

Langston Hughes: I, Too, Sing America

Bloggers who have authority on this topic:

Osheta Moore

Christena Cleveland

Rachel Held Evan’s Ask A Racial Reconciler, interview with Austin Channing Brown

I Believe in the Church

These were the handicap parking signs at a wonderful church in Tennessee

These were the handicap parking signs at a wonderful church in Tennessee! I love it!

In my last post, page I wrote about how I overcame depression with the help of my church community. Following Christ is hard- picking up your cross daily, try being hated by the world- and it is never a road we see people walking alone in the Gospels and in the account of the early Church in Acts. We need faith communities to walk along side us, and this is why I truly believe in the Church. But, sadly, I need to qualify my statement by defining what the Church is.

Let’s start with what the Church is not.

The Church is not a Sunday morning service (although Church can and does happen on Sunday mornings).

The Church is not political or conservative.

The Church does not need to “take back” America.

The Church is not a building.

The Church is not the Catholic church (although the Catholic church is a part of the Church).

The Church is not judgmental.

It is not hateful.

It is not fake.

It is not shallow.

This is the Church:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. -Acts 2:42-47

The Church is the fellowship of believers, people who are completely committed to each other because they are utterly devoted to Christ.

The Church is where people experience the power of the Holy Spirit, resulting in signs and wonders, because when people have the faith to call heaven down to earth, heaven comes down.

The Church is authentic and vulnerable sacrificial living.

The Church is everyday commitment and everyday community- this includes Sunday morning services, but certainly does not end there.

The Church is needs being met– the hungry fed, the sick healed, the lonely comforted, the outcasts accepted, those in bondage set free.

The Church is where God’s precious and holy name is praised. Where His favor shines.

The Church is filled with the presence of God, which is so magnetic, so irresistible that people cannot help but be attracted to it. And so the Church flourishes.

I do see some good things happening in the American Church- there are really wonderful, Jesus-centered movements gaining momentum, and I am lucky enough to be part of one of them, part of a community where everyone knows and lives by Acts 2:42. However, on a whole, there are a lot of things that need to change.

The Western, American church is going to continue to fail as long as it continues being a place you go on Sunday mornings, sit down, listen to someone say things that don’t reflect the words of Christ, present a happy face, and leave without it having any impact on the rest of your week. Until we reform the way we think about Church, we can’t expect a reformation of the Church.

I just finished reading Bonhoeffer, a biography about the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that I cannot recommend highly enough (I’ve written more about it on my Resources page).  Bonhoeffer was a pastor and theologian during the Third Reich and was eventually killed by the Nazis. During Hitler’s rise to power, Hitler and his closest officers took over the German Church and convinced most German Pastors to accept the Aryan paragraph, which said that no Jews were allowed to be members or pastors of the German Christian Church. The German Christian Church was all too happy to accept Hitler, his politics, and his opinions of the Jews. Bonhoeffer was against Hitler from the beginning and worked tirelessly to convince German pastors of the evils of anti-Jewish thinking and the dangers of a nationalistic and politicized church. Bonhoeffer and others started the Confessing Church, which they considered the only German Church, the true German Church. Bonhoeffer believed in the power of the Church and dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel.

He said “The Church is the Church only when it exists for others….not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others” (Letters and Papers from Prison).

Here is a man who had every reason to be disillusioned by the Church- the German church had become a Nazified system that rejected the entire Old Testament (because it was “Jewish propaganda”), replaced words such as “peace” and “meek” with more “manly” ones, re-wrote entire sections of the New Testament, including the Sermon on the Mount, and Hitler himself called Jesus “our great Aryan hero.”

And yet, Bonhoeffer dedicated his life to the Church- he discipled people, preached and taught people the word of God, and even started and ran his own seminary after the Nazi party had taken over the schools of theology in Germany.

Bonhoeffer called for a radically different Church, without forsaking the Church, the importance of the fellowship of believers, for one minute. I wonder if we can do the same.

Church can happen anywhere- here is my church community during prayer and worship gatherings- at night, outside, and on our campus :)

Church happens anywhere- here is my church community during prayer and worship gatherings- at night, outside, and after evangelism on our campus!