A Frame of Reference

Here’s an inspiring passage I found in on pages 19-20 in Douglas F. Ottati’s book, Theology for Liberal Presbyterians and Other Endangered Species (Geneva: 2006).

Will the mainline churches in America hold together or split apart?  Will liberal Protestants criticize the excesses and the idols of contemporary American culture but also remain open to the lessons and wisdom that nevertheless seem present in the wider society and culture?  Will liberal Protestants simply disappear?  Will the United States find positive, realistic, and responsible ways to exercise power in a multilateral world?  What shall we say and do about racism, sexism, and homophobia; about urban policy, transportation, and education; about matters of war and peace?  Can we ever become stewards of our natural environment?

These are among the important questions we face.  Nevertheless, for Christians and their communities, the more basic question is this: How shall we center a faithful witness?  The function of Christian theology is to help us answer this question, and I propose that we answer it in a single sentence: We belong to the God of grace.

Once we are clear about this, a number of things follow.  First, we live in assurance, refuse to set limits on the extent of God’s faithfulness, and refuse to exclude anyone from the scope of grace and redemption.  We then work for an inclusive church, support a ministry of reconciliation, and invite everyone everywhere to lay hold of the assurance and confidence that come with the knowledge of a gracious God.  Second, we acknowledge the human fault and, without losing hope, maintain a realistic attitude toward the present age and its daunting challenges.  Finally, we affirm that all people have worth, and we commit ourselves to public practices, policies, and leadership that respect persons, pursue equitable opportunities for the poor, and care for those in need.

We belong to the God of grace.  This simple confession will enable us to interpret the many threats and conflicts and issues and promises of our day in a definite theological frame of reference.

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