Walking humbly

January 24, 2011

For more commentary on this week's readings, see the Reflections on the Lectionary page, which includes Anderson's current Living by the Word column as well as past magazine and blog content. For full-text access to all articles, subscribe to the Century.

Just as loving mercy is a means to doing justice, so is walking humbly with God. Yet in the sexuality debates raging in the mainline church, humility is seldom easy to find. Both sides cling to the fiction that they harbor gospel truth.

In 2001 I was appointed to the Presbyterian Church (USA) national task force charged with helping the denomination find a new way forward out of three decades of ecclesiastical warfare. This group, comprised of 20 individuals chosen for their theological diversity, was given five years to do its work. I was the only openly gay person around the table.

We came to a startling and unanimous conclusion: the conflicted camps each hold views that are biblical and faithful, even though they reach diametrically opposite conclusions. We confessed that we live in an age of paradox and ambiguity in regard to issues of ordination and same-gender relationships, and that we need to make room in our polity for these views to co-exist. Interestingly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) reached the same conclusion three years later.

It took lots of time, energy, commitment and courage for the members of our task force to leave the self-assuredness of our well-honed positions and acknowledge a measure of faithfulness in the views of those with whom we disagree. Such humility is a rare commodity these days, particularly when it comes to hot-button issues like sex.

Walking humbly can be a means to justice. By acknowledging that our views are a partial expression of gospel truth--as are the views of those who disagree with us--we make room for the other in our midst. That was my experience with 19 diverse Presbyterians. Now I long for the whole church to discover this as well.


prayer for truth

My hope and prayer is that I might be more faithful than certain, that I not fear new truths, that I not settle for half truths, and that I not presume to have all the truth.

Mike Marsh+

No Hero's needed - only the Humble!

Your reflection triggered in my mind a quote by G.K. Chesterton: "The ultimate psychological truth, the foundation of Christianity, is that no man/woman is a hero to himself/herself.”

Enough already with those in the church who like to play the part of hero to himself/herself – instead, let us focus our time and energy on being ourselves as we "walk humbly" through life together.

The Potter & the Clay