• on February 21, 2019

A PASTORAL LETTER

Circulating pastoral letters among churches is as old as Peter and Paul, Titus and Philemon. I saw one a month ago from the President of the United Church of Christ, John Dorhauer. May I share it with you here and ask for your reaction?

Like Moses Mather, our founding father, we would bring our ministry to bear upon the world, our current era, and the vital issues of our day. It’s part of our ethos, who we are. Not everyone agrees but consensus for a broader witness matters God doesn’t mean for us to retreat behind walls or hide our light under a bushel. God calls us to engage the world, even inviting it to take on the soul of the church, like Martin Luther King. I am interested in your reactions to John’s piece.

Dear Partners in Christ,

The vision of a body united—in purpose, in mission, in vision—is one that inspired the birth of our denomination. All of our spiritual impulses reverberate in an effort to call us into a more perfect union. Throughout our shared history as a people of faith and as a part of the body of Christ, we have challenged ourselves to widen the circle of inclusion. Widening the circle has always come with growth pains as we shed old skins and welcome those whom we had previously thought unwelcome. And, with the articulation of a more fully expressed Body of Christ we have realized new joy. Through it all we remain focused on the call to be one and committed to meeting the challenges inherent in that call.

We are now living in and through a season when the threats to unity are legion. Talk of walls that mark refugees as threats, labels like ‘terrorist’ that attach too easily to Muslims, overt racial bias that normalizes fear and hatred, a pandemic of abuse to women with the trigger reflex to forgive the men who author that abuse have turned America into a land many of us no longer recognize and that too many of us are finding harder and harder to reconcile with our faith.

Now more than ever, the Holy Spirit of the Living God and the Risen Christ is seeking to partner with anyone committed to unifying the human community. The Gospel mandate to love our neighbor as we love ourselves resonates deep within us. It calls for the better angels among and within us to always resist impulses to hate, to condemn, to vilify, or to castigate. In such a time as this, the United Church of Christ’s call to fulfill the prayer of Jesus, that they may all be one, stands as an urgent mandate to disciples who envision a just world for all.

United with you in God’s service,

The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President
The United Church of Christ

3 Comments

  1. Yes, it would seem absolutely fundamental that we “widen the circle of inclusion”

  2. Very challenging times

  3. Thank you for sharing this Dale – I just listened to a piece on NPR about the Methodist church discernment around widening their circle, which unfortunately that body did not choose at this time to do so. this message is both timely and timeless.

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