To ML or Not to ML... That is the Question....
An excerpted conversation with Linda Malcor of More Light Presbyterians - Los Ranchos Chapter
At 02:13 AM 4/12/00 -0700, Lawrence A. Reh wrote:I can't speak for all such churches, but I can for my own. If my church became More Light, it might as well throw away its vote in our Presbytery. Anything we had to say at higher levels of church government would be completely discounted. This way we at least can place allies where they can do good. What we did instead of having the church go More Light is I founded a More Light Chapter. We are drawing from several congregations where people do not feel they can be out about their support for More Light. The Chapter is acting as an information conduit for such folk, and we serve as a place people can turn for help and information (We've been in existence only six months and already put two mothers whose sons have come out to them in touch with support networks that they didn't even know existed in our region.). Our mailing list continues to grow.
Yes, there's dissent within the congregation, but not enough that that was a governing factor in the decision not to become a More Light church. The decision was political, pure and simple. We can do more good by not being a More Light church (a name, by the way, that dozens of people in my region have said they will not associate themselves with because it sounds as if members think they are better than everyone else--no matter how many times I and my pastor explain what the name means and where it came from) but by supporting the local chapter, working for equality at the Presbytery level, and providing a living example that the two opposing views really can work together within one church if the Christian ideal of loving all people without qualification is followed.
Reh: True, this can happen in any congregation, but in my opinion, it is less likely to happen (and less likely to catch the unwary newcomer in a bewildering and vulnerable whipsaw effect) where there is an OFFICIAL, out-of-the-closet, prophetic commitment on the books.What we do instead is we have a pamphlet for the whole church that describes the congregation as "A Place with Open Hearts and Open Hands Welcomes You with Open Minds." We provide More Light information on our information cart at the coffee hour. And usually two or three Sundays a month I make announcements about More Light events during the service and run a special More Light information table at the coffee hour with opportunities to sign up for More Light-sponsored events and activities as well as for our mailing list. That may not be ideal in everyone's book, but it does seem to be working in a territory where there were no ML churches, no ML chapter, and very few ML members just six months ago. We now have a mailing list of about 85 (about 30 chapter members, 30 allies of the chapter, and the rest on the General Mailing list for notification of upcoming events), roughly three-quarters of whom support the National MLP office with memberships as well. Six months ago no one even dreamed there was that much support for More Light in my region.
So I guess what I'm saying is that there are many reasons that some churches who are truly supportive do not become More Light, and most of those reasons are political rather than having anything to do with whether or not they are welcoming congregations. In such areas I think it would be a good idea for the local liaisons to More Light to form regional chapters so that we can develop mailing lists, provide a visible support network and offer educational opportunities. Yes, it's a lot of work and takes a lot of time, but I think it's a better approach that needling allies to do something that they do not feel that it is politically possible for them to do.
Lawrence A. Reh wrote:I disagree with that analogy. I think this is more a case of we have logs in our own eyes while we are looking for splinters in the eyes of others. Accepting the label "More Light" (which some people do find to be arrogant and offensive) is not the _only_ way people can be supportive. There are many good people and good churches who cannot or will not accept the label for a variety of perfectly valid and sensible reasons. To say that their support is worthless or nonexistent is ridiculous. We couldn't see the More Light supporters in Orange County because the majority of them have not been calling themselves "More Light" nor have those who actually are members of More Light had their names collected on anything other than the national mailing list before. We were looking for a label rather than for what people were doing. If we aren't willing to see the light because of the type of light it is, then we won't see it, no matter how bright or in our face it is.
Reh: And if Linda is called to relocate to another part of the country, what happens? Well, perhaps she has started something that wouldn't wither without her, but official policy might assure continuity of a kind.What I've started here would continue. What the chapter has done is act like a lightning rod for people to refer other people to. We are then able to put those folks in touch with each other and with supportive organizations in their areas. Now that the network is up and running, it will continue to function as long as their is someone to administer it (and we have several quite capable folks in the organization). I have also had several people tell me that they had never heard about More Light before we formed the chapter, and those people have since either joined the chapter and/or the national MLP organization. It's a bit ridiculous to blame people for not belonging to something that they don't know exists.
Reh: I think the Jesus way is to take the risk, let your light shine, declare your ministry openly -- even in Orange County -- and perhaps reach (and serve) a whole lot more people who have little way of knowing about your outreach, if you have to already be aware, or have an intermediate contact who is aware, of the spiritual opportunity. That would be a true leap of faith. One might even stimulate unexpected institutional support among sister churches, by providing an opening for the Spirit to move.Jesus asked people to take risks within reason. When he was arrested, he did not ask his followers to be crucified along with him then and there. If every Christian had managed that, it would have been a really short-lived religion. Each one of us has a different call. Some of us find that it is necessary to keep a low profile in order to do the most good. There is much wisdom in Aesop's fable of the Sun and the Wind and their methods for trying to remove a man's coat. Some times to be the light you have to be patient and let your warmth seep in.