It’s important to understand the dysfunctions at church as systems. We know this. Most of us learn this in seminary. But then we get caught up in things, and it all feels so personal. So it’s good to remind ourselves of the reasons why systemic thinking makes sense.
I used to get a phone call every Monday morning. “I just wanted to let you know what’s being said,” the caller would begin, and my body would tense as if preparing to be punched. Then, I would get the rundown of every complaint that people had about me.
It is extraordinary to hear a song reverberating off stonewalls and then dissipate into thin air. The soaring beauty of ephemeral art! Sometimes I find myself holding my breath as the soloist hits a high note or that incredibly awkward person tells his testimony. Do we appreciate that moment? Because many of us are conductors of that symphony, curators of beauty and we don’t realize the importance of our position.
Rev. Frank Schaefer is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church where he ministered for 20 years. In 2013, he was tried by a highly publicized United Methodist church court for officiating at his son’s same-sex marriage. He was defrocked on December 19th, 2013 when he refused to uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety, which would have meant to denounce gay marriage rights.
Recently a friend came to me for financial advice. I was stunned, because... well... we don’t have money. We have a home. We have equity. We have retirement savings. We have a plan to send our daughter to college. But, our day-to-day lives are lean. There have been a couple bountiful years here and there, but for the most part, we have to be careful.
Finally, because I don’t expect or desire the average person in our Christian communities to have to wade through waters of academic vernacular found in critical race theory or theological ethics, the entire book is written out of a pastoral voice (of which I have 10 years of pastoral ministry experience), and saturated with personal stories and experience that help communicate important themes and points. In short, Trouble I’ve Seen = antiracism theory + theological ethics + pastoral voice.
Christ came to bring God’s kingdom to bear on earth. As people who follow the risen Christ, we cannot faithfully live into his kingdom when we are silent about those who are marginalized in our midst. Our leaders need to curate conversations about race and reconciliation. As people of God we must extend ourselves in risky ways to begin to break down the “other-ness” that exists between races in the larger body of Christ.
Many times we are working with church structures of a different time. I have seen churches with 50 people attending on Sunday morning, and they maintain 12 committees. There may have been a lot of retirees in the church, so we have committees who meet in the day. Or there might have been a lot of people without children, so everyone meets at night—on a different night, to ensure that the pastor is at every meeting.