(progressive) Hermeneutics

I am spending a portion of this week attending the Open Faith conference.  It as been organized by the OPEN Network.

OPEN Faith is a National Conference bringing together those from various streams of faith including (but not limited to) Non-denominational, Progressive-Evangelical, Post-Evangelical, Evangelical, Charismatic, Free-church (and, frankly, most any other ‘stream’) seeking to live and believe in just, generous Christian ways.

The goal of the OPEN Network is to bring together leaders and networks seeking to embody an ecosystem for a ‘Just and Generous Progressive Evangelical’ expression of faith in the United States.  It’s straight forward, I believe, while at the same time bringing a longing desire for a new way of approaching the theology of the church.

stan-mitchellLast night, at the end of the days seminars, that time in the evening when everyone wants to sit down to discuss hermeneutics, Stan Mitchell presented a talk titled “A Progressive Hermeneutic”.  Stan is the lead teacher and pastor at Gracepoint Church in Franklin, Tennessee.  Gracepoint is an open and affirming, fully-inclusive faith community in the heart of the Bible belt (God’s country).

During Stan’s talk, he focused on the way in which progressive & conservative Christians take on the task of hermeneutics.  In layman terms, hermeneutics within the church is the way in which we (all of us) take on the task of interpreting scripture.

Here is a highlight I want to share with you.

“Full inclusion is only inclusion if a transgender person can take my place as senior pastor.”

Fleming Rutlege has told me that she believes that many churches who advertise their openness to LGBT brothers and sisters are doing so more for the street-cred the will receive.  Last night, Stan called us all out.  We can only claim to be open, affirming, and welcoming of all God’s children if we are willing to allow those who look the least like us.  This is a scary proposition for most of us.  We like what is comfortable.  We want leaders who look like us, like our preconceived notions of what we think a leader should look like.

Here’s the kick to the gut. Jesus broke the preconceived notions of what a savior would look like. He wasn’t born into a family of wealth or means.  Instead his birth has all of the great makings for a scandalous movie.  He didn’t ride into Jerusalem on a horse carrying a sword, ready for battle.  While being arrested, when the swords were drawn, he told his disciples to stand down.

If Jesus broke the mold on how a savior would look and call for God’s Kingdom to come, Stan makes a great point.  We cannot, as disciples of Jesus Christ, say in one breathe that we worship a man who broke all preconceived notions of who he would be and then in then say, “no, you can’t lead in our church because you don’t fit the model of who we want as a pastor or teacher.”

Watch Stan’s entire talk below and let me know what you think about inviting a progressive hermeneutic to the theological discussion.