“Perhaps nothing in North American culture has changed more rapidly and dramatically than sexual mores.” This sentence is from the interim report the Committee to Articulate a Foundation–laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality is providing to synod this month.
Synod 2016 thought it best to zero in on the core issue of human sexuality by calling for a report that would be “foundation-laying.” Yet this observation about changes in society’s norms, can also help us think about a variety of items coming to synod this year.
In addition to human sexuality, Synod 2019 will also be looking at a report on the abuse of power in the church and discussing overtures on topics such as climate change, Israel-Palestine matters, immigration, and kinism.
As the volume and variety of these topics indicate, we live in an often confusing, ever shifting, and broken world. We see changes happening dramatically in seemingly accelerated ways. How ought the church to respond?
Change, in and of itself, isn’t something a synod study committee can address, nor is it something that necessarily requires an overture. Nevertheless, I think it is important to pause and note at least two things about change.
First, individually and among families and friends, we grow weary. Our Judeo-Christian heritage, which once felt like solid ground, now seems to have gone missing. This feels even greater than the generation gap of a few decades past. It is not only that we are struggling to understand the new ideas of the youth; rather, new perspectives from young and old alike are winging in fast and furious.
Just what is kinism? What does science really say about climate change? What is the #MeToomovement, and how does it relate to the abuse of power? What’s more, some perspectives on these ideas drastically contradict others. In the face of so many issues and so many perspectives, we grow weary.
The second thing I’d like to point out is that in the face of this weariness, we have a solution. We must turn to our faith as expressed in the Scriptures, as reflected in our creeds and confessions, as explained in our contemporary testimonies, and as proclaimed every Sunday. God has provided us with the Holy Spirit to guide us in the midst of the changes we face. We are tasked with being faithful about listening for the Spirit and seeking to discern God’s will.
In this, I am reminded of a seminar presentation given by Dr. John Kromminga back in 1971 at the Seminary in the Rockies. This seminar came during another era of dramatic change, and as Kromminga considered how the church ought to react, he stressed the work of the Holy Spirit.
“The presence of the Holy Spirit is to be presumed. It is to be expected. It is to be sought. It is to be discovered. And we have to do this together. The Christian preacher, the Christian teacher, the Christian professional, and every Christian member have to be working at this, teaching one another and listening to one another. If this can be done, we can cope with change and yet not lose community. If this can be done, we can change and yet not change. We can serve the whole word and not lose our own soul. Who is going to say that it cannot be done?”