Rise and Shine - May 12
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DOUBTING GOD AND QUESTIONING YOUR FAITH?
The Rise and Shine discussion group meets Sunday mornings at 9:00 am in the Parlor. Adults from the 8:00 & 10:00 services gather for discussions that are relevant to their lives through the lens of a current topic and scriptural references. This week's discussion outline can be read or downloaded below.
Rise & Shine, May 12th
1 Corinthians 13:9-12
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
In the News
Provocative Christian Writer Rachel Held Evans, Dead at 37, Still Speaks to Many
Rachel Held Evans, once named "the most polarizing woman in evangelicalism" by The Washington Post, died at the age of 37 on May 4th from complications arising from a brief bout with the flu. A best-selling Christian author, who moved from conservative evangelical beliefs to progressive theology, she is survived by her husband Dan and two young children.
Many expressed shock over Evans' death, some crediting her with rescuing their faith, and others (women in particular) attributing their pursuit of ministry to the writer's encouragement.
"Thank you @rachelheldevans," wrote Alexandria Beightol, a young evangelical, on Twitter. "I'm still a Christian thanks to you."
Born in Alabama in 1981, Rachel and her family moved when she was 14 to Dayton, Tennessee, the site of the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial" in which a teacher was prosecuted for allegedly teaching evolution in school.
In 2003, Evans graduated from Bryan College, named for William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor in the case. One of her professors, John Stonestreet, wrote that Evans was willing to question "evangelical sacred cows."
In 2010, Evans published her first book about her spiritual journey from religious absolutism to a faith with room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, Evolving in Monkey Town, later released under the title Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions.
Evans spent a year following the Jewish holiness rules for women, which she documented in the often humorous 2012 New York Times best seller A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master.
Some who hold to more traditional views of the role of women in marriage and the church took exception to Evans' celebration of a more egalitarian perspective.
While Evans had proudly worn the label "evangelical" in her earlier years, she increasingly became uncomfortable with a brand of conservative Christianity she viewed as "too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."
Evans clung to the belief that Jesus "embodied a radically inclusive love" in his life and teachings. Many remarked how she sought to welcome everyone to the table of Christ, and to amplify the voices of those whom she felt were often unheard in the American church, including women, lesbian-gay-bisexual-transexual-questioning (LGBTQ) persons, and people of color.
In 2014 she joined the "#exvangelical movement" and began attending an Episcopal church, a development she described in her 2015 book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church.
Evans won fans as well as foes by questioning conservative views in the church about a wide range of issues, including gender, race, biblical literalism, abortion, six-day creationism, theology, patriarchy, marriage and politics. Some of those who held more traditional views nonetheless respected her for her honesty, intellectual prowess and kindness.
John Stonestreet, a former professor of hers and host of BreakpointCommentary, wrote: "I think Rachel was wrong, seriously so, about many things, including things of grave importance. In tribute, many have written how she helped expand the tent of evangelicalism and convinced many skeptics to stay at the faith table. I think, as a friend put it, she often ushered the vulnerable into her doubts and championed wrong ideas."Although he strongly disagreed with Evans on many points, Stonestreet still mourned her death and prayed for her family in their grief.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, was a frequent target of what he called "her Twitter indignation," but said Evans "made all of us think, and helped those of us who are theological conservatives to be better because of the way she would challenge us."
Evangelical author and speaker Beth Moore described Evans as "alarmingly honest … in an era of gross hypocrisy.”
Singer and songwriter Nichole Nordeman wrote, "I will really miss how @rachelheldevans could just get right to the heart of it, without superfluous poetry or fanfare. She had a black belt in truth telling, unsullied by ego or self-consciousness or branding or platform. Just unadorned truth."
Just as Evans had wrestled with her understanding of the nature of her faith and the church in her earlier books, she wrote about her questions regarding the foundational scriptures of that faith in her fourth and final book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again.
Katelyn Beaty, Editor at Large for Christianity Today, commented that Evans "wrote unflinchingly about how hard it is to trust God, to forgive church leaders, to wrestle with scripture. There was a quiet sadness to her writing, a grief over having lost a simpler faith and faith community."
But Evans' fans tend to view the loss of "a simpler faith and faith community" as a necessary step toward development of a more mature faith and openness to a broader faith family.
"RHE [as Evans was known online] taught the beauty of a messy and complicated faith," wrote an Evans follower, Cristina Rosetti, on Twitter. "She showed us how to hold multiple perspectives in tension. She made people feel safe to talk about doubt."
More on this story can be found at these links:
Rachel Held Evans, Christian Writer of Honesty and Humor, Dies at Age 37.Religion News Service
Rachel Held Evans, Hero to Christian Misfits.The Atlantic
Rachel Held Evans, Voice of the Wandering Evangelical, Dies at 37.The New York Times
Reflecting on Rachel: Why She Mattered.Christianity Today
The Value of Doubt: Why Unanswered Questions, Not Unquestioned Answers, Build Faith.Bill Tammeus
Here are some Bible verses and a question outline to guide our discussion:
Matthew 7:7-8, 11
[Jesus said,] "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. ... If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" (For context, read 7:7-11.)
2 Timothy 3:14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (For context, read 3:10-17.)
- Have you ever felt like a spiritual refugee, unsure whether you really belong in your congregation -- or even in Christianity? Do you still feel displaced? Where, if anywhere, are you finding a safe place where your faith can grow and thrive?
- How comfortable are you asking questions about the teachings of the church? What prevents you from asking those questions, or what encourages you to express them?
- What is the difference between questioning your beliefs about God, and doubting or mistrusting God?
Prayer Before Worship (BCP p.833)
O Almighty God, who pours out on all who desire it the
spirit of grace and of supplication: Deliver us, when we draw
near to you, from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind,
that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections we may
worship you in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ our