The congregation where I serve as pastor, Holy Covenant MCC, used the reflective season of Lent this year to consider our primary theological and spiritual identity. We began the process by using a survey I designed to address our beliefs regarding God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, atonement, heaven, hell, other faiths; what is most important to us as a community of faith and so on. The primary purpose of the survey was to set a foundation for changes in our mission, vision and programming. A secondary purpose for this survey was for us to start a discussion about what we mean when we say, “Well, of course we’re a Christian church.”
Or whether we should make that claim at all…
Yeah, I know the whole thing sounds quite dry. I mean, really, a survey? At the same time, the results of that survey have led to some very interesting observations and conversations in our community. So would you like to know what Holy Covenant learned about itself?
Well, we don’t fit into the mainstream of Trinitarian Protestant Christianity–and the predominant LGBT orientation of our congregants has little, if anything, to do with that fact. 82% of the survey respondents (and 70% of our congregants responded to the survey) have what is best called a Unitarian/New Thought view of God and Jesus; that is, God is of one nature (and that nature–in our congregation–is predominantly non-theist); and Jesus had one nature: human. Not only that, we’re all expressions of the One Reality or Source many people call “God.”
We’re quite Christian Humanist, too. Basically, for us, Jesus is very important as an amazing teacher, prophet and healer. Most of our congregants don’t focus on the later supernatural claims attributed to Jesus’ birth, life, resurrection and second coming. What I’m saying here is most of our folks don’t outright reject these claims about Jesus as much as those claims are not why they think Jesus is important, especially since we cannot prove them. For most of us, Jesus “saves” through the example of his life and teachings. We take the bible seriously, but not literally; and the holy writings of other faiths as well as the knowledge we gain from science is critical to the formation of our worldviews.
We are very Universalist, too. By that comment I mean we see all peaceful expressions of faith as valid paths to the Divine; and as far as hell or other forms of eternal damnation go, well, the response was “Hell? No!” Prayer is important, and we pray in different ways (mostly non-theist).
Communally, we value an open communion–everyone without exception–is welcome. And we are ready to open our doors wide to everyone who wants to be a positive part of our community–Christian and non-Christian–and yes, that is full participation including voice, vote, sitting on the board of directors, etc.
Was I surprised? No and Yes. No, because I’ve suspected for some time that we are more theologically liberal than we present; at the same time, I was surprised at just how not Trinitarian Protestant Christian we are. Is everyone happy with the results? No. A very few are concerned they are too conservative to remain at Holy Covenant. They have told me, however, they know they are welcome and are not angry at all at the results of the survey. Many people have mentioned how happy they are we took the time to go through the survey process. As one person said, “We should have done this a long time ago.”
So, are we “Christian” at Holy Covenant? Well, that depends on how you define “Christian.” Someone even asked me if we should just keep all this quiet from our denominational leadership in case we get in trouble for not being “Christian” enough.
My response? “Not at all. There are many ways to be MCC. I say, ‘Let’s let our theological freak flag fly high with pride!”
Blessings on your journeys!