Holding faith accountable

Respect not enough; show up, stand up

Posted: October 6, 2018 at 1 a.m.

At an event not long ago, someone asked me, "Why is the Episcopal Church the only church showing up at these things?" Not wanting to speak for my siblings in Christ, nor neighbors from other traditions whom I know also show up at community events, I spoke for myself, sharing with the woman that the Episcopal Church takes social justice seriously. One of our vows at baptism includes that we will respect the dignity of every human being. Respecting someone in our thoughts and prayers is important, yet showing up to stand alongside or for someone sends quite a different message.

Our recent readings on Sunday mornings from the Book of James call us to task about how our works reflect our faith. Coincidentally, not long ago I received a message on our church Facebook page in which a woman pointedly asked, "What is your church doing in the community to follow the ways of Jesus in supporting the widow, orphan, immigrant, single mother, impoverished, the LGBTQ community, etc.?" In response, I enumerated things we were doing, acknowledging we had room for improvement. I haven't heard back from her, but I hope she knows how much I appreciated being called out to answer how our church puts our faith into action.

As followers of Christ, we have a mandate to support, walk alongside and stand up for the very people she mentioned. As individuals, families, churches and businesses -- at our best -- we do this in various ways, creating a beautiful network of support for the most vulnerable in our communities. We work with our neighbors and across all kinds of boundaries to share in the work of loving one another to the glory of God. We need to know where the pantries, shelters and safe spaces are, as much as we need to know who is missing from worship or who no longer calls for that monthly coffee date.

If our faith is based on a relational understanding of God through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, then our works reflect being in relationship with others -- not just any kind of relationship, but a loving relationship. When we truly love one another, there's room to disagree, to have meaningful conversations and even to have different beliefs. Not everyone is going to be at the same events I attend -- to walk as a church in the Pride Parade, to advocate with Moms Demand Action or to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Arkansas Poor People's Campaign -- but I will be. There are people within my congregation who might disagree with these causes, and that's OK, too, because at the next service, we share the same bread and cup and the faith that the peace and love of God passes all understanding. That work of sharing speaks volumes for our faith.

NAN Religion on 10/06/2018