THE SARASOTA STATEMENT

At its 2017 National Gathering, NEXT Church released a new confessional statement in response to the current state of the church and world. It’s called the Sarasota Statement, and it was made possible by a partnership between NEXT Church and the Presbyterian Foundation. We hope you’ll take the statement into your own life and context, using it as a tool to declare your own faith statement, proclaiming the light of Christ.

Glen Bell, Layton Williams, and Bertram Johnson give background on the Sarasota Statement at the 2017 NEXT Church National Gathering.

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Learn more about the Sarasota Statement with these blog posts from the writers, the conveners, and people who are using the Statement in their own contexts.

Trusting in God, Always at Work

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None of what the Sarasota Statement calls for is easy. The work to which it calls us is the work of many lifetimes. These words from the closing of the statement remind me of Dr. King’s insistence that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

Refusing to Hear

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Perhaps fear is why we, the church, have refused to hear some expressions of faith. If we truly listened to the stories of those crying out for justice, then we would be convicted to act. If we looked to the silence, perhaps God would not respond, leaving us to wrestle with our gut instinct that something is not right.

The Idol of Discord

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In the Sarasota Statement, the authors chose a perfect verb about our segregated and broken church communities: grieve. The authors show incredible wisdom in the selection of this verb as we, in the church, have allowed the worldly idols of race, class, ideology, and belief to divide us into obscurity.

A Time to Keep Silence and a Time to Sing

As a Church, through the centuries, we have been at our worst when we’ve demanded that only a unison song of our own making will be our song; that no other notes, no harmony could enter our performance. We have been at our worst when we’ve silenced the voices which would have woken up our theology from its oppressive droning on, or challenged prophetically its monotone which we had been indoctrinated to think was the only note which would please God.

The Healing of Our Planet

I do not know how to love God’s good creation. I know only that in the beginning God breathed everything into being and loved it — all of it.

Small and Imperfect

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I have grown jaded when I see a statement that starts out saying, "a small and imperfect reflection of the church." Do we mean it? Will our life-our statements AND practices-bear it out? Do we see ourselves as small? Do we think, from beginning to end, that we are primarily… imperfect?

Deeply Moved by Grief

What I didn’t know was how poignant the words of the Sarasota Statement would be – chosen nine whole days before they were spoken aloud, five days after another deadly mass shooting.

Comforted and Challenged

Indeed the Sarasota Statement does comfort and challenge. We are all here in this statement: no matter our identity or what side of what spectrum we’re on. We are heard and accompanied in experiences of being excluded. We are challenged in our own privilege or our histories of exclusion. We are called to something better.

Road Signs and Tough Topics

This month’s focus for the NEXT Church blog will be on the Sarasota Statement, which we unveiled a year ago and continue to promote for use in our congregations and communities, along with the accompanying study guide. You will hear from a variety of voices and contexts throughout March, reacting to phrases in the statement, and sharing ways it is being used.

Engaging the Sarasota Statement

I am grateful for all of the ways this document, written by a small representation of the PC(USA), has led me and challenged me throughout the past year. And now, I'm excited about a new way to engage the Sarasota Statement and look more deeply into its core convictions. The writers of the Sarasota Statement just published a study guide so that you and me and communities of Christians all over can faithfully engage with the statement, scripture, our confessional heritage, and one another.

A Place of Response and Action

The Sarasota Statement has had a lot of buzz since it debuted at the National Gathering. I particularly appreciate how the statement directly addresses groups of people and actions that will be taken to bring reconciliation. This month, the congregation I pastor is taking four Sundays to walk through the Sarasota Statement in worship.

Making Room at the Table

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.

God's Beloved Community

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.

The Kingdom of God Is

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.

The Stupendous Promises of God

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.

Accepting the Invitation

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.

Called To The Uncomfortable Place

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.

What Do We Say?

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?

A Confession for This Moment

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If I really believed all the things I claimed in that article, then we needed a confession to address the world and the church and claim our hope in God for this particular moment.

2017 National Gathering NEXT Church Update

Karen Sapio, Lori Raible, and Shavon Starling-Louis give an update on the work of NEXT Church at the 2017 National Gathering. Following them, three writers of the Sarasota Statement give more information on this new confession of faith.