March 20, 2018
I apologize. One of the hallmarks of a conscientious leader is their ability to apologize. I said something on Sunday during the congregational conversation that was not meant as an indictment, but was meant as an invitation. I said that as a church, Plymouth was “Bible-light.” Allow me to put this in context.
I did not mean the Bible is not considered a sacred text at Plymouth, nor did I mean the Bible isn't important to Plymouth members. My statement wasn't a burn for not having enough Bible study (though Jennifer Castle, Director of Faith Formation and I long for space and time for more Biblical study). I also did not mean we don't have a long and grand tradition of profound theological undergirding, or that we aren't faithful in bringing in skilled and prepared minds that will propel us on a path of discipleship. With what I know about Plymouth members, I am positive we have been lovingly held by faithful and prepared hands and hearts skilled in breaking open Scripture to teach and edify the church. I know the clergy sent over our long history led with sound theology and knowledge of Scripture married with faith and belief.
What I do mean is the Bible can be used as a roadmap and a barometer to discern where we are, and how we shall proceed. I contend that if our first and most swift response to strategic planning and discernment of direction for Plymouth is to hire consultants, create documents and develop policy, Scripture may be an afterthought. This is like making icing, then baking the cake to plop into its sweetness.
As a result, what we aspire toward may not be grounded in the Spirit or resonate with the witness of Scripture. I simply ask that the Bible be a part of the inspiration for cutting our path, the spiritual energy for what might be daunting, but full of grace.
For instance, when I look at the landscape of Plymouth, I clearly see us, a people of covenant, coming out of the wilderness like the Hebrew people of the Bible. After many years, we, like the Israelites, are moving to the next place where God will sustain, change, affirm and transform us, and remind us we are God's people, no matter what.
In Numbers thirteen, spies were sent into the promised land to discern if, in fact, it was a good move. Let's call it a viability study. The spies, representing the diverse tribes of Israel, entered the land and observed the people and resources. After a time, they brought back fruits of the land and documentation of reality. The move wouldn't be without risks. There were big people and big problems, perhaps stronger and bigger than they. However, their report gave leaders of the people the ability to make the decision to move forward despite challenges. That is a compelling vision and spurred a strategic plan that can inspire even today.
I didn't speak with clarity, but my intention was to ask that we be grounded in Scripture, so we might understand clearly the courage it will take, and the risks involved in moving forward. My request wasn't to disparage the church or anyone in it, but to ask that we look to the Bible to encourage our souls--for if God can lead the Israelites, surely God will lead us, too. The Scripture, upheld by the Spirit, allows solidarity and creates a common force, the movement toward the good.
So, take heart! And, please accept my heartfelt apology. I simply don't want us to be stuck in what The Reverend Dr. William Barber calls, “the paralysis of analysis.”
Now – let's move! The path is negotiable. May we vow to arrive in the promised land together. The God of Scripture will show us how. –With love, Kelle