I serve as the program director for young adult ministry for the 4 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and am a consultant desperately seeking justice, mercy, humility and love. I am a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and am passionate about prophetic leadership, human rights, fostering radical self-love and providing compassionate care. Visit my website at www.rozellahwhite.com and follow me on Twitter @rozellahw.
The recent news that World Vision USA had decided to honor marriages in all forms – between those of opposite genders and those of the same gender – had many within progressive circles of faith elated. I was one who believed that their decision was prophetic in nature; that by taking this stand they were saying to same-gendered loving folks that their reality was honored.
48 hours later, news came that World Vision was reversing their decision. The article published by Christianity Today cites the following statement in an official letter signed by the President of World Vision and the Chairman of the Board:
“In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, ‘We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.’”
This reversal shows what happens when organizations hear from their conservative base and realize that their decisions come with a cost. I am tired of narrow-minded, life-taking theology winning; of these views having louder voices and monetary might; of these views promoting a divisive faith that gives Christianity a bad name. This reversal is not only disappointing but also perpetuates a common narrative that Christians are unwilling to learn, listen and lead in prophetic ways.
I am a believer in the Christian faith because I believe in the beautiful mystery that God chose to dwell among humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that God’s love for us trumps all hate, oppression and those things that do not fulfill God’s promise of abundant life. The Christian story is one of reversal – of a radical reversal that shows how God is about radical love, radical hospitality and radical sacrifice. Time and time again in scripture, in the Old and New Testaments, God reveals that the ways of humanity often get it wrong. That we are close-minded and do not understand God’s focus.
In Isaiah chapter 58 verses 6-12, God through the prophet Isaiah talks about true worship, rather than the worship that the people of Israel were engaged in. God is interested in worship that looses the chains of injustice and breaks every yoke; worship that is focused on the needs of others and seeks healing and wholeness.
The prophet Micah in chapter 6 verse 8 exhorts that God requires believers to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly.
Jesus himself shares in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 22 that the greatest commandment is to love.
Roman chapter 8 reminds us that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.
In 1 John chapter 4 we hear that God is love and that whoever does not love their neighbor does not love God.
All of these text plus countless others speak to a love that is defined by action. It shows us a God who ultimately wants to be in relationship with God’s creation and seeks to create a new community – one that looks, feels and exists in radical ways.
Many have used biblical texts, religion and faith to promote division and discrimination. I’ve written about why I continue to be engaged in the Christian church here, in spite of the common narrative of exclusion and judgement It is time for those of us who believe in the expansive love and grace of God to stop allowing those who would try to limit the breadth and depth of God’s love to have the loudest voice. It is time to lift up God’s Radical Reversal as a framework for understanding Christianity today. It is time for us to take a stand on the side of acceptance, to advocate for new methods of interpretation, to promote expansive theologies and to act out ways of being Christian that would invite those who have been hurt, oppressed, marginalized and discarded to reconsider a faith that has been misused.