A friend and I were invited to be respondants at the upcoming conference — “At the Crossroads: Promise and Peril 2008â€³ in Winnipeg. I feel like our household is involved in kingdom work and has plenty of connections/theological grounding for the work. And it sounds like some solid folks are already going to be there, representing much of what I would be saying. So I’ve been wrestling with whether to leave life-giving work in my neighborhood for a conference I’m unsure about.
QUESTIONS ASKED BY THE CONFERENCE:
Why does God work through people-hood even when that people is not deserving?
What does covenant mean and how does that inform our questions of faithfulness?
What are the temptations of God’s people in the land in which they live?
Where do God’s people find security as they live in the land and are tempted by wealth, power and ownership?
I have my working answers to these questions. We’re working to live them out in the neighborhood.
The core gospel message is not difficult to understand. It’s difficult to live. Anyone who’s paying attention knows what needs to happen, how we need to live. (use less oil, fight militarism, reduce consumption, learn how to love the earth, build relationships with people on the margins of empire — both within and without this nation, for staters)
I want to be exploring ways of living in solidarity, and sometimes it tires me out to have to explain, convince. I feel like they’re asking, “What does our peace witness mean in the context of the Iraq War?” — and then asking us to take a break from our anti-war organizing to come discuss the question of what a peace position means in a time of war.
I want to be asking tactical questions about how to organize — and we’re doing that here in Elkhart. I don’t want to argue that the gospel means we should drive less, consume less, etc.
The gathering “will focus on the theme of ‘the church living faithfully as a contrast community in our global reality.'” The gospel message is not to be a “contrast community” because it makes us feel good and become free of the world’s impurities. Rather, the point is that what we’re called to is relationship with the marginalized and a platform of liberation.
I see how my living and working in this neighborhood supports liberation of marginalized peoples. Through reading the promotional material, I haven’t been able to see that this conference does it. And when I can, I try to avoid devoting significant energy to things that aren’t supporting liberation.
Am I missing something?
Is our attending a way of giving back to the church in gratitude for the simultaneously valuable and flawed support that its members and institutions have given us over the years? Does that obligation to give back make up for the fact that I’d be using lots of energy to go there instead of working in this neighborhood where I do feel called?