Monday, January 21, 2008

SOUL SEARCHING THE CHURCH
I have a chapter in this new compilation on Free Methodism

FROM ESSAY TO BOOK CHAPTER. I've been providing a link in the right side bar of bikehiker blog for the paper I presented last year at a symposium sponsored by the Free Methodist Historical Society. The article, "To Break Every Yoke," is renamed and given a chapter titled "Free Methodist Mission: Justice" in Soul Searching the Church: Free Methodism at 150 Years. I feel privileged to be among some Free Methodist mentors published in this small volume, including editors Howard Snyder and Bishop Gerald Bates. The book is a available through the Free Methodist Historical Society.

Here's an excerpt from my chapter:

While my inclination is to assert that ‘doing justice’ should have a more central place in my life as a believer, my leadership as a pastor, and our common life as a Free Methodist congregation, it seems to me that explicit acts of ‘doing justice’ are currently more exceptional and set apart from the spiritual disciplines and service priorities of most Wesleyan/holiness believers, pastors, and congregations. This heightens the urgency and complexity of the question.

Could it be that we know justice is not being done and we know that it should be done but that we don’t believe it is the role of the individual believer, local pastor, or local community of faith to be about ‘doing justice’ as a matter of principle or priority? Perhaps we believe justice should be done, but that more important than ‘doing justice’ is church growth, evangelism, conversion, discipleship, and membership development. Will we ‘do justice’ after we get these other ministry priorities well underway? Will we get around to it? Do we feel that adequate justice is being done through these other priorities? Or do we leave ‘doing justice’ to specialized ministries within our congregations, to organizations represented in the Association of Human Service Ministries (AHSM) of the Free Methodist Church, to para-church organizations, to political influence groups supposedly acting in the best interests of Christianity, or to secular justice advocacy groups? In other words, do we believe that ‘doing justice’ is a specialized ministry and not a central imperative for our local believers, pastors, and congregations?

Or, do we follow what seems to have become the dominant practice of most Wesleyan/holiness believers, pastors, and congregations (following the lead of many contemporary evangelical churches): revert to letting acts of charity, compassion, mercy, and philanthropy supplant or substitute for the Biblical mandate to ‘do justice?’ If it is appropriate to ‘show mercy’ in parish ministry, why is it not equally appropriate to ‘do justice’ in this setting? Are we satisfied to provide local, national, and international relief for the oppressed and support philanthropic care for those who are repeatedly wounded by society’s injustices, or shall we also engage the imperative of Isaiah 58: “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,” “set the oppressed free and break every yoke,” “do away with the yoke of oppression,” “spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed?”

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