At “meremission” they asked, “Can there be an ecclesiology not dependent on theological uniformity?”
Elsewhere Alan Roxburgh writes on welcoming the stranger,
I spent almost twenty-seven years in a denomination. I thought I “belonged” to the tribe over that time. In recent years I was in situations where I realized that if you didn’t fit the narrative a process of exclusion ensued. None of it was out loud or direct but, nevertheless, it happened… What are the actual, operative theologies at work among such a group? But much more critically, what is the understanding of God and the other that permeates a Christian narrative that can easily put the other outside? .. difference lies at the heart of God’s nature and creation that I have had to rethink not just my theology but my practices and responses to others. Out of this journey I have learned that to welcome the stranger (even the ones in our midst as tribes – and if we can’t do that what can be our basis for Christian witness?) requires a community of men and women shaped around a rule of life ..
And still elsewhere, Roxburgh uses de Certeau to talk about otherness.. alterity..
We are situated and shaped inside a story from the moment of our birth. We enter space and
time with a social imagination already in place. [On the stage] other things are always happening…there are the other sounds colloquially described as the “voices off” or “noises off”. If you’ve raised children or led a congregation this won’t be so difficult to understand. They’re the sounds and distractions coming from the side of the main play. de Certeau’s point is that these are not just sounds and distractions. They are the sounds of the other (to use a Christian image), they are Havel’s coffee shop scribblers trying to articulate some counter “making do” in the midst of the dominant narratives.
More than the call to hospitality, and more than the call to loving community and wholeness, Roxburgh is also inviting us to discover God’s future through the other. When we empower marginalized voices to become who they were meant to be, we all grow in new ways. “No man is an island” and God is creating one new humanity from the rich mosaic of diversity. Diversity is God’s gift to us — together we are more. The other — and difference — is a gift, but we only discover that gift our heart is enlarged and we pay attention to the margins.
de Certeau invites us to become listeners for the “voices off”, these sounds of the other off to the side. Excavate these voices for this is where the creativity and inventiveness of a different future is being birthed in the midst of the ordinary. These are places dismissed and past over by experts too busy writing a dominant narrative out of their categories and objectivities.
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I experienced this again when I ripped the siding off my house. The old men on the block, one of them 75 and the other 80, both having lived on our street for nearly twenty years, kept wandering by to comment on my work and to tell stories. Initially I thought it was an interruption. But as I listened, I realized they were looking for connection, and they were looking for it through work and through story. They were working at integration – at welcoming me by weaving my story into the larger story. In the new narrative they were offering something essential about themselves and their lives. That became a significant realization for me as I prepared some teaching for Sunday morning talking about Passover and the defining stories of Israel.
The other..diversity.. community.. and theological uniformity. It helped that we were meeting with a group on Sundays that was ANYTHING but uniform. METRO was radically diverse, in the sense that urban places can be highly pluralistic.
Elsewhere, Out of Ur reflects on Multi-Ethnic versus Mega and Clarke Cowden reflects on change and innovation. Perhaps we lack the ability to innovate because we are so near to homogeneity. Yet if we fail at innovation, our movement will not thrive in the new world. Biologists know the importance of bio-diversity. Our western churches tend to lack diversity. We don’t even know how to embrace difference. But what do we lose when we lose the margins, when we all gather around a clear center? IN order to get to that place we generally suppress difference. But we are living in a time when we need the wisdom of a wider body, in order to recover the wholeness of our identity and then to move forward into a new future.