guest post by Kay Huggins, Interim Executive Director, New Mexico Conference of Churches
I’ve been speaking with pastors over the past two months and although I have 5 specific questions, the content of these conversations is deep and wide. A few themes are emerging:
Hope: I anticipated hearing at least a few complaints, but frankly, there have been precious few. Most pastors experience great satisfaction and joy in their callings; some feel overwhelmed; but, rarely is heard a discouraging word. Moreover, the sense of hope is linked to growth among the members and leaders of the churches: new ideas, new visions, new challenges and new opportunities are combining to create new steps for Jesus’ followers.
Relationships: Every pastor, at some point and always in a unique manner, identified ministry as grounded in strong relationships: with family, colleagues, members, neighbors, and friends. Moreover, all affirmed that their effectiveness in ministry is directly related to these relationships. Most spend time and energy being with others — so that together, they will be strong for doing the ministries entrusted to them.
Speaking out…together: This theme included a bit of sadness and/or frustration. Almost every pastor interviewed expressed a passion for speaking the truth of our Christian values and convictions in a bold and free way; but also expressed was the persistent awareness that in our culture, the voice of many churches is inaudible. The “Christian voice” has been kidnapped by evangelical or conservative churches and the progressive or socially engaged churches have been put on mute. The pastors I interviewed longed for to speak out, together, and be heard.
In these days of political turmoil and distress, the voice of the silenced progressive, socially engaged and liberal Christian churches is needed. A very helpful article, “Unprohibited speech“, Christian Century, July 20, 2016 reminds:
“There’s no law against religious leaders speaking and living out the truths of their faith…What (by law) is prohibited is an explicit endorsement of a candidate.”
This is followed by a stirring string of strong words churches may speak.
“Churches are free to say that a candidate who threatens opponents with violence is undermining the basis of community.
They are free to say that a candidate who targets people of one religion for discriminatory treatment is attacking the basis of everyone’s religious freedom.
They are free to say that campaigning by name-calling and personal insult is an affront to reason.
And they are free to say that a candidate who sneers at the disabled, ridicules people because of their appearance, and promises to engage in torture fails to understand that all humans are made in the image of God.”
Dear ecumenical community, we are old and young, rich and poor, Protestant and Roman Catholics living in New Mexico; let us speak up as individuals, as church leaders, as congregations, as an ecumenical community of believers. Let us claim the freedom we have to lift up our distinct and deep Christian values…especially within the current political context.
Share with me your statements and I will share them with the ecumenical community of the New Mexico Conference of Churches.
I remain, steadfastly, Kay Huggins, Interim Executive Director.