(RNS) When churches conclude their summer hiatus and resume full-scale ministries this week, much will have changed from a year ago — outside their doors.

Conditions might have changed inside, too. But it is the world outside that demands fresh attention in mission and ministry.

Members of Middle Collegiate Church in New York held a worship celebration on Sunday (Aug. 17) in which attendees held their hands up as a gesture for prayer in response to the situation in Ferguson, Mo. Congregants were also asked to sign a petition asking President Obama, Senator Harry Reid and Representative John Boehner to enact federal laws to protect citizens from police violence and misconduct. Photo by Béatrice de Géa, courtesy of Middle Collegiate Church.

Members of Middle Collegiate Church in New York held a worship celebration on Sunday (Aug. 17) in which attendees held their hands up as a gesture for prayer in response to the situation in Ferguson, Mo. Congregants were also asked to sign a petition asking President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner to enact federal laws to protect citizens from police violence and misconduct. Photo by Béatrice de Géa, courtesy of Middle Collegiate Church


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Ferguson, Mo., has happened, revealing disturbing trends in law enforcement and deep fault lines between white experience and black experience.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine happened, threatening a resumption of dangerous tensions between Moscow and Western democracies.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria happened, raising the dreaded specter of a take-no-prisoners war on modernity, reason, progress, women and other faiths.

The 113th Congress happened, mired in systemic dysfunction, with one party determined to cripple a black president and to channel more wealth to the wealthy.

The Koch brothers and their megabuck cronies happened, changing the face of electoral politics with unprecedented infusions of cash and ideological vitriol.

The two-tier economy happened, with one tier doing extraordinarily well and a much, much larger tier falling further behind, leaving despair among all age groups.

Border wars between terrified migrants and swaggering white men bearing arms against children happened, threatening America’s true core value as a welcoming nation promising freedom.

These outside-the-walls developments have little to do with the usual church fussing — except to say that it’s time for church people to stop their usual fussing.

This year will be a test. Can American Christianity get over itself and truly serve a desperate society? If churches do nothing more than business as usual — the mega getting more mega in splendid isolation, the struggling trying to hang on by not offending anyone — the Christian enterprise in America will have declared bankruptcy.

That means the mega must abandon their prideful isolation. They must put their considerable resources to work in making this a better nation for all citizens, not just a more comfortable home for like-minded evangelicals.

Progressive and conservative churches must put down their ideological swords and work together among people walking by their closed doors.

Black churches must dare to teach whites what black life is like; they must push beyond mutual suspicion to forge alliances. Politicians won’t provide jobs and dignity; gospel-bearing believers must do so.

Roman Catholic churches must dare to become neighborhood centers of peace and justice — not jealous outposts of a global brand, but neighbors helping neighbors.

Now is the time for churches set among the poor to get radically engaged in securing employment, feeding and sheltering, and standing in solidarity with the “wretched refuse” coming to our shores.

RNS-TOM-EHRICH

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich

Now is the time for churches set among the shrinking middle class to stop remembering the 1950s and to see 2014 for what it is: a battle zone in a great class war between the rich and everyone else.

Now is the time for churches set among the wealthy to stop begging for scraps to improve facilities and echo Jesus, who commended radical generosity, radical sharing, radical self-denial.

Our nation needs faithful servants who have the boldness that Jesus commended. The year since our last fall homecoming shows a nation in deep distress. Time for us to step up.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

YS/MG END EHRICH

20 Comments

  1. NOW is the time to preach the good news of God’s kingdom or heavenly government as the ONLY hope for mankind before the end of this wicked era comes (Matthew 24:14).

    True Christians and followers of Jesus should be doing this work because of Jesus’ example (Matthew 4:17), since the Kingdom was the major theme (as well as of the entire Bible) of his preaching and teaching.

    People worldwide need to know that God’s kingdom will soon put an end to all wicked ones (terrorists are greatly expanding these days!) and put an end to all corrupt, selfish and greedy governments (Psalm 37:10,11; Daniel 2:44).

    That government will rule with love, righteousness and justice, and even the animal kingdom will be at peace with one another (besides complete brotherhood of man) (Isaiah 11:1-9; Micah 4:3,4).

    That government will also do away with all sickness, disease, old age and death (Revelation. 21:1-4) and bring back to life on earth those we have lost to death, to be reunited with family and friends!! (Acts 24:15; John 5:28,29).

    All of these blessings for meek mankind will be realized and enjoyed during the upcoming 1,000-yr. rule by God’s Kingdom, through his son, Christ Jesus, its King!!!! :-D

  2. I always have to stop what I’m doing just to comment on what absolute garbage Tom Erichs thought processes are in written form. I imagine they are equally fecal in verbal form too.

    He lays the recent problems of american governance, point by point, out at the feet of american christianity and points at christians in blame…daring them to stop fussing, as if we were wasting time on pressing issues that only we could solve.

    So the embarassing but not so profound logic is that american governance is SECULAR. Has been for generations. If his best logic pins his laundry list of problems as the effect and lack of christian activisim as the cause, then we don’t have the proper governance structure in place enable his utopia of christian solutions to ever emerge.

    But something tells me Erich wouldn’t be happy either with a system focused on christian governance. I bet he’d whine about that too, just like his current whining about a lack of christian solutions to the problems created by a secular gov. He can’t even make a complete loop on his own circular thinking.

    Disregard. He is here to sell you something.

  3. Sister Geraldine Marie, R.N.

    I agree with the author! Start practicing real Christian love to the poor, lonely, elderly, children and anyone else who needs your help!
    A great big world can come together to fight–why not to put real love into action? Churches are training grounds for helping others, not clubs to make a person feel good about him or herself!

    Blessings and pray for the courage to be obedient to The Lord!

    • Because all religious people don’t have the same solutions to these problems.
      And pretending that “the other side” is either simply misinformed or irrelevant or malicious/not really a believer simply kicks the can of the problem down the street.
      Why should I believe someone religious has a solution that we secular people don’t? If you can make a case for doing these things without bringing in your religion, why bother with your religion? If you can’t make a case for what you want to do in society without bringing in your religion, you’re not secular. You’re either pretending or oblivious.

  4. There is one more “must” to add to the laundry list: Churches, Clergy and Christians MUST abandon their acceptance of homosexual behavior and gay marriage.

    We can agree to disagree on Republican and Democrat billionaires and their sociopolitical hobbies. Compromise is possible on a few issues like immigration. (Well, maybe.)

    But there is NO possible excuse for what some churches and clergy, and even some denominations, are doing in regards to allowing and even supporting homosexual behavior and gay marriage. That’s just screwed up to pieces.

    Trying to out-Sodom Sodom, yes? That’s like declaring war on God. That’s why American Christianity is so weak and pitiful and defeated. Acceptance of homosexual behavior and gay marriage.

    That includes ordaining openly gay clergy, tacitly or openly supporting legalized gay marriage or court rulings, tacitly or openly endorsing the relationships of practicing homosexuals, lesbians, etc. It’s got to stop.

    • Doc,

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on your points of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

      Those acts are not approved nor condoned by God; therefore, they should not be promoted nor practiced by religions who “claim” to worship God and Christians who “claim to follow Jesus.

      Imagine how God feels about those who do promote and/or practice them!!

    • Because what churches need right now is the perception of being malicious bigots. Riiiight.

      Their image of being out of touch, hypocritical dinosaurs is not damaging enough.

      Why should Christians care about fellow people and perform good works for the public when they can act like uncivil dillholes to people with a measure of social sanction?

      I love how you Christians always feel the need to attach other churches when they do not agree entirely with your views. Why would anyone outside the faith bother to respect your views if you can’t respect those of fellow Christians?

      • It’s most important to get God’s view on the subject, since there are thousands of different religions out there. Romans 1:24-27 shows us how God views homosexuality, and those who worship God should hold the same view and not be hypocritical.

        This does not mean physically or mentally attacking anyone who follows that lifestyle; but appropriate changes can be made and have been made by persons who put their trust in God to help them make those changes.

    • Doc. Seriously? “That’s why American Christianity is so weak and pitiful and defeated. Acceptance of homosexual behavior and gay marriage. ” Gays, huh? Not the miserable failure of STRAIGHT marriage where the Church suffers the SAME rate as the unbelieving? Not the plastic, judgmental, hypocritical, biblically illiterate superstition of American evangelicals? Not the complete self-absorbing, racist, selfish, country club state of the American Church? Shall I assume you are one of the many ignoramouses that still believe Genesis 19 is about gays, huh? The only thing that I find comforting in your comment is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t adhere to your ‘traditional’ bigotry and you are not only on the wrong side of history, but on the wrong side of the Spirit. You, and millions of other bigots, continue to purposely misinterpret scripture that supposedly condemns gays. I would suggest you do some reading beyond the FRC website and Al Mohler and try reading the Bible IN CONTEXT. You’ve chosen to read your own prejudices into scripture and it clearly shows. Go ahead and blame the failures of the church on its growing Godly compassion towards Christian gay people, but I wouldn’t dare say that to God’s face – He knows the truth. Repent.

  5. Almost none of your laundry list would be the least bit interesting to a well-functioning congregation or optimally employed clergy who understand that warfare is largely the business of soldiers and high politics that of diplomats (whom they can advise only on the margins). Ferguson is just another episode in bad political theatre and has little in the way of novelty or implications beyond the ambo of the principal actors.

    Most of your renderings are tendentious. (“The Koch brothers and their megabuck cronies happened, changing the face of electoral politics with unprecedented infusions of cash and ideological vitriol.” – no one who’s not a useless Democratic Party press agent talks that way).

    What’s in it for your congregation that you’re present there?

  6. On the contrary—it’s time for churches to get out of the ethical, do-good and social justice business altogether. Secular organizations—from Oxfam to the Democratic Party—do a very good job at this. Churches, which currently have little power and no credibility, have nothing to add and are just wasting their resources.

    The business of churches, which secular organizations can’t do, is the woo-woo: aesthetic/mystical experience and metaphysics. Their job is to maintain elaborate buildings and organize fancy services, including rites of passage, to satisfy the human taste for ceremony and to provide the machinery for getting religious experience. Churches have taken that away from us in order to promote their go-good social justice agenda. And if they refuse to provide this, there’s no reason why anyone should support them.

    If I wanted to do good, I’d get involved in these secular organizations. I am not interested in doing good. I’m interested in RELIGION.

    • Secular organizations—from Oxfam to the Democratic Party—do a very good job at this.

      Oxfam wastes scads of money on conferences and political posturing and the Democratic Party is the electoral vehicle of the teachers’ unions, the trial lawyers, and Hollywood. They do little or nothing special for impecunious wage-earners, but are bound and determined to leave-no-social-worker behind in the interstices when they are not toadying up to the educational apparat.

      The exemplary Democrat is depicted here:

      http://cdn2-b.examiner.com/sites/default/files/styles/image_content_width/hash/7f/01/7f0162bb6050d87af79633c9ff69cf68.jpg?itok=UeWmDdSk

  7. I agree with Tom. Well said. Too much navel-gazing (and gazing at others’ navels) among churches. Although “competing churches” gets more media than churches acting for humanity. More christianity is being practiced than immediately apparent. Thanks, Tom.

  8. No he did not. He cared how we behaved.
    Before you thump your Bible, be advised that only the most ignorant, and intellectually lazy, insist that every word of the 67 little booklets is “God’s Word”. Perhaps they do not know that the final selection was made only in A.D. 419, and not even by the head of the Church. The only answer they offer is magic (the Holy Spirit insured inerrancy). This claim of magic direction, relieves them of having to think, weigh and judge.

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