By: John Furste
Steve Watson is a close friend of the River and pastors our sister church in Cambridge, Mass. (Reservoir) . He has written this excellent piece as featured in FaithAndLeadership.com. Steve will be speaking at the River on Sunday, July 14. He writes:
Roger stood before our quarterly gathering of church leaders wearing faded jeans and a button-down shirt suitable for the gardening and other activities that occupied his retirement years. He sported a short gray ponytail, reminding us of both his age and his perennial countercultural vibe.
He began telling us that the Bible frustrated and irritated him and he didn’t read it much at all anymore.
Roger is a trusted and respected elder, befitting his decades of church leadership and service.
I had asked him to tell us about his Bible reading, the spiritual practice we were highlighting that evening.
Our church had emerged from an evangelical tradition that emphasized the Bible and the holiness it was thought to inspire. To encourage spiritual formation in our community, we’d taught seven core faith practices over the years. One was regular, systematic Bible reading. But like Roger, most of our members weren’t reading the Bible anything close to daily, and when they were, it was with growing confusion and frustration.
Privately, if I had been honest with myself, I would have admitted that this was true for me as well.
In my training in evangelical institutions, I’d been taught that with sufficient time and tools, the Bible was reliably clear and helpful. Usually, I was told, a plain reading of the text would lead to greater insight about God and direction for faithful living.
But now I found that even I, a trained pastor, couldn’t always fathom or stomach what I read.
Parts of the Bible are violent, and I could no longer make peace with a fundamentally violent God. Other sections require considerable interpretive gymnastics to not undermine the lives and faith of women, sexual minorities and many other people who have experienced marginalization, not to mention how particular readings have been used as active weapons in that harm.
Given the Bible’s age and complexity, its mix of freedom and patriarchy, love and war, beauty and terror, it’s no wonder that many in our church weren’t reading it anymore.
I understood Roger’s frustration. It was also my own.
So what would we as a church do?
(Please read the rest of Steve Watson's blog here at FaithAndLeadership.com)