Friday, July 09, 2004

beliefnet: interview with william sloane coffin

Check out this story from beliefnet, an interview with William Sloane Coffin -I was drawn to it by a link from the textweek blog, and I really found it meaningful. Some excerpts:

"My own feeling is you have to be as pastoral as you can be without surrendering one single iota of ethical initiative. Nothing ever stops a minister from saying, in the middle of the sermon: 'What I now want to say it’s hard for me to say, so I can imagine how painful it’s going to be for some of you to hear. Let us remember that in the church, our unity is based not on agreement, but on mutual concern. So let me tell you what’s on my heart and mind and then you be good enough to tell me where you think I went wrong.'"

Yes! This is precisely the dilemma that I constantly have in ministry - prophetic/pastoral conflicts. How do I work for the social justice causes about which I am passionate without alienating the congregation I am serving, the congregation that trusts me but that is not at the same place I am on many issues like this?

Another: "The churches are a reflection of the truth of Plato’s statement, "What’s honored in the country will be cultivated there." When we got started as a country, we had no more than 3 million people--less than Los Angeles County today. Yet we turned out Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton--you can name a list as long as your arm. How many people on the public stage can you name today who are of the caliber of those first men? And why aren’t there more? Because what’s honored in the country will be cultivated there...we have mediocre politicians, and the clergy is pretty mediocre also. But what’s honored in a country will be cultivated there. The greatest recession in this country is not economic; it’s spiritual. And so the great biblical mandates of pursuing justice and seeking peace are shortchanged.

And:
Too many ministers, also, are dependent on the love of their congregation. A real friend is one who risks her friendship for the sake of her friend, rather than using the friend for the sake of her friendship. The clergy don’t speak out because they don’t want to risk the love of their congregation. It’s pathetic! If [a parishioner] says, "If you say anything like that again, you’ll never see me in this church again," you should say to him, "You know, I must have said something very important. It certainly got you all riled up." But most ministers would take the hand in both hands, "Oh, come on Joe. There must be some misunderstanding. I’ll call you. We’ll have a date over a cup of coffee."

If you’re shepherd of the flock, you’re supposed to keep the wolves out so more sheep can come in. And the hills are full of browsing sheep, wondering whether there’s room in the fold for them. But they look in and say, "There’s no Good Shepherd there, lots of wolves. I’ll stay browsing outside."


Here is another that hit the mark in me - the overwhelming desire to be liked, the overwhelming fear of making people mad, attempting to avoid conflicts at the cost of what should be, what is right. The wolf/sheep imagery - what kind of shepherd can I be?
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