So I was told by a former member of a church I once served. I saw her again at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis this July. When I saw her, the memory of what she had told me 25 years ago came flooding back. The occasion then was when I had set up a panel discussion for a church adult education class around the issue of abortion. At the end of the hour I had closed with a prayed which included thanks to God for uniting us in faith in Christ even as we disagreed passionately over an issue. After the prayer she came up to me and asked how I dared consider those “other people” as Christians in my prayer, meaning that those who were on the other side of the (her) argument, were not acceptable in God’s sight. And even if I agreed with her on the issues, but accepted folks with other opinions as Christians, she still was writing me off as a person of legitimate faith.
She went on to leadership positions in organizations trying to turn the Presbyterian Church in a direction that fits her and these organizations’ understanding of how a Christian should think, giving a litmus test for belief and action.
So when I saw her at this gathering and she saw with whom I associated, I guessed that she would still say by her standards that I’m not a Christian. I guess that is ok, because I’m not looking to be accepted by her and her persuasion. She can’t guilt trip me into thinking I am wrong or sinful or distanced from God.
It’s not because I don’t accept her, or care about her perspective, it’s just that she holds no authority over me. Only Jesus Christ directs my life and I’m grateful that no one else can be my conscience. Only the God of all creation, which includes me, guides and challenges me. So I feel quite liberated and I know I am a person who with faith in Jesus understands that I am completely acceptable in God’s sight.
Yet, I am sincerely grateful to her, for the clarity I experience as a result of her comment. And yes I would still say that same prayer that celebrates our differences of opinion, along with the commonality of faith we share in Christ. I like to say it with even more gusto these days, because I know she and others need to hear that all, even she is acceptable!