I can remember talking with a Missouri pastor in the wake of the 2016 election about reticence in his church and among its leadership to publicly step into the fray of social justice issues, for fear of upsetting their more conservative white members. When she complained that their collective silence was doing more damage to already oppressed and vulnerable people by yielding to the sensitivity of the most privileged people in their community, one of his long-tenured members said, “But pastor, we want these conservative members to come with us where we are going.” The pastor agreed with him in principle, but replied, “Maybe we have to really go there first and realize that not everyone will come with us. Maybe we have to be willing to lose some people in order to become the community we’re supposed to become for those who aren’t even here yet.” As the church slowly stepped into that place of clarity and specifically around current social issues and more visible involvement in the work of justice, some longtime members indeed walked away but many stayed; along with an entirely new group of gifted, passionate human beings who’d have never found a spiritual home in its former iteration. The pastor later said to me, “If we had refused change in order to placate people who weren’t all-in with us, we’d have missed the chance to really be present in our city in the way we are now.” For her, the discomfort and the grieving have been worth it, because those additions and subtractions have been a necessary part of their transformation. They needed that painful relational shifting to take place in order to become what they needed to become.
From “If God Is Love, Don’t Be A Jerk: Finding a Faith That Makes Us Better Humans” by John Pavlovitz – Westminster John Knox Press