This is in response to (an) article in the April 19, 2014, Religion section of (this paper), titled “Walk Away. Leave.” In this article (was advised that) an individual who is concerned about his/her church becoming more “theologically and socially liberal” to leave that church.
First, because I am not part of (the article’s author’s church) tradition, I cannot pretend to speak about it with any credibility. So to claim an understanding of the Lutheran – there are at least three different kinds, by the way, as well as Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist traditions is not credible, unless one has lived in those traditions. Unfortunately, Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley and William Carey aren’t living today to give us their opinion on whether they would or would not be able to join the more liberal churches in their respective denominations.
Secondly, Christianity has never been just one Christianity, but many “christianities,” reflecting many different theologies. From the time of Acts, church decisions on social and theological issues have been made by the people of God, seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit, with results across the conservative/liberal spectrum. Christians are to be in the world, helping, healing, challenging and risking condemnation. It’s what Jesus died doing, and what he calls his followers to do.
Therefore, in response to labeling as “evil” a woman’s right to make an extremely difficult decision about abortion, and (their) rights to be considered equal human beings, I would simply respond with the words of Jesus, “Judge not, lest you be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged” – Matthew 7:1-2. Jesus’ last message to his disciples was not that they be separate from the world, but that they love – John 15. He said that others would know we are his followers if we love.
Women facing the heartbreak of abortion and young people who question their gender or sexual identities who have been raised in a church that condemns them do not feel safe in that environment and end up leaving it. “Liberalism” is not causing the decline of mainline churches in the United States. Instead, churches that focus on being “separate” rather than loving the world that God loves so dearly (John 3:16) are viewed as irrelevant.
To our sisters and brothers I would say, come to an ELCA “Reconciled in Christ” church, and to women I would say find a church in a denomination that respects you as an equal partner with men, because you also were created in the image of God.