In a day and age when so many people have chosen to write a “Dear John” letter to the church, the ministry of NEXT Church seized the opportunity to write the Sarasota Statement that actively demonstrated what it means to include one another and to seek out the alien and stranger.
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When I was invited to help compose this statement of faith and action, I immediately felt a sense of apprehension. I wanted to be certain that I could bring my whole self to the occasion. It was also vital that the communities in which I hold membership and those I care for see themselves, their struggles, and passions voiced here.
Perhaps the most countercultural posture the church can proclaim and seek to embody is one of confidence and hopefulness. Such a way of faith and action may demand that we live and act counter to our own preferences at times.
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The reason we dare to imagine what things should look like in this world (in the Sarasota Statement and beyond) is because God has made us stupendous promises. God’s Kingdom will come to earth as it is in heaven, we confess.
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There is something special about the Sarasota Statement – and also nothing special about it at all. But it points beyond itself, inviting and challenging all of us to do the same, in our place, in our time, right here and now.
At one point, I told one of my colleagues on the team that I had never been so aware of both my privilege and lack thereof as I was during this process. My race, gender, and sexual identity combined with my traditional Presbyterian education and my untraditional non-parish job placed me uniquely and intensely in the midst of the various identities represented in the group.
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The writers of the Sarasota Statement began their work with the recognition that they are but “a small and imperfect reflection of the church.” They gathered because it seemed an important and difficult moment for leaders around our church to name the convictions of our faith alongside the disconnection and division in this country. What do we say?
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