Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reaching out to conservative pastors

Today my lectionary group is trying something new. We've invited the conservative pastors on the South End to lunch at a local restaurant, in hopes of finding common ground to stand on, so that we can work together to address some of the human needs on the island: homelessness, poverty, unemployment--all the things that every community needs to face.

I can't predict how it will turn out but I'm hopeful. I'm also realistic. One of the pastors, a volunteer chaplain at the hospital, was asked (when I was getting ready to start volunteering myself) by the coordinator to show me around and teach me the ropes of informal chaplaincy. He turned down the request because I'm not the right kind of Christian, i.e., someone who believes that Jesus was God.

The coordinator was a little abashed at telling me the news but I read his mind, when he said that he'd been turned down. "Is it because of our different theology?" I asked. He said yes and I theorized that it was because of our differing Christology (though I didn't use that word). He acknowledged that was the case.

I was frustrated but not surprised. The implication seemed to be that somehow meeting with me would be a betrayal of his belief system, that he would endanger his soul by helping me learn the hospital's chaplaincy procedures, that his congregation would disapprove.

So I hope for today's luncheon and I wonder if this pastor will show up. I wonder what I might say to allay the fears. I wonder if my colleagues in the lectionary group understand the depth of antipathy that one "Christian" has for another.

I'll let you know how it goes.


Anna Banana said...

Even if it goes badly, don't give up hope for common ground. I think that's what Jesus would do. And I don't mean to be snarky at all. Very important work you are doing.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Anna. Actually it went pretty well, though only one of the invited conservative pastors came. He did seem interested in meeting together again, in a few months, so we will. We spent time talking about how to meet the needs of our island indigent and homeless folks, and he was helpful and supportive. So one plank in the bridge has been laid!

fausto said...

I don't think he feared for his own well-defended soul; he feared for the souls of the defenseless patients whom you might corrupt if he helped you minister to them.

ms. kitty said...

I think you're partly right, Fausto, and one of the tricky things about this kind of volunteer chaplaincy work is that most of the pastors volunteering have no chaplaincy training and don't ascribe to the policy of non-proselytizing.

But I've had other conservative folks refuse to participate in events with me, for example, because we preach "lies and false doctrine".

LinguistFriend said...

To have one plank is a fragile bridge. The one friendly pastor may find himself the object of presssure from colleagues. Good luck.
The antipathy you experience reminds me of a second-century encounter between two Christians,described by Irenaeus (a student of Polycarp): when Polycarp met the heretic Marcion, Marcion said "Do you recognize me, Polycarp?" and Polycarp answered "Yes, I recognize you, I recognize the first-born child of Satan!", a phrase which is known from Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians. But Polycarp was better qualified to call someone a heretic than your conservative neighbors.

Comrade Kevin said...

It's an admirable effort on your part. I hope you keep at it.

I'm just reminded of how divided Christianity is, to say nothing of Christology. One of the myths perpetuated over the years is that Christianity and/or the movements inspired by the it have been somehow unified at any point in history.

Mile High Pixie said...

Oh wow! Wil you post on how it all went? We need all of us involved, regardless of theology, to help those most in need among us. After all, I would think helping others would indeed be most representative of New Testament theology.

h sofia said...

It might be worthwhile to continue extending the invitation, even if the other conservative pastors don't come for a long time. You never know.