I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Friday, July 09, 2004

How Can You Be Christian?

This is a question that I am asked almost more than any other. After all, I am a Unitarian Universalist (UU) minister serving a church that is also UU. Those folks familiar with the association are usually aware that it is explicity non-Christian and, in some congregations actually quite hostile to the Christian faith. (In fact, I was once accused of bearing the "taint of Christianity" by a fellow UU at our annual General Assembly. As I wasn't feeling too Christian at the moment, I was left wondering how he figured it out!). The name Unitarian Universalist, obviously, implies at least some discomfort with the Holy Trinity and the other half (Universalism) conjures up a variety of images, most of them liberal and, sadly, often "fuzzy". (The word actually refers to the concept of Universal Restoration, but that is treated better elsewhere and at the very least would be another post).

It can be a tough spot to be a Christian, even a liberal one. However, the issue is further complicated for me and for the members of Eliot, because our congregation also belongs to the United Church of Christ (UCC). We are affiliated both with a relatively traditional Christian denomination and an untraditional, non-Christian one (albeit one with Christians in it).

"So...How can you be Christian?" The people who ask me this come from all walks of life and from all theological perspectives. Sometimes the question has little or nothing to do with our consciously ecumenical perspective. For example, I am sometimes asked this by more conservative types when they discover my support of gay marriage. This can happen regardless of how you choose to label yourself. Yet, the question also comes from within the two traditions and from the membership, itself.

I am not going to give you an answer right now. Unity (the weblog) is, in part, concerned with the broad implications of this question. What makes a Christian? Is it some kind of Christological orthodoxy (liberal or conservative? Is it participation in Christian community and its rituals? Do you have to belong to a Christian church? What is "Liberal Christianity"? It is also concerned with a broader question: What is our faith and how should we act it out in the world?

A part of being a member of the Eliot Church is to wrestle with the tension created by our multi-faceted identity. It is a subtext in every conversation and every sermon. It is what challenges us. It is what pushes us. It is what makes us grow. You are welcome to be a part of the conversation on all of its various paths and tangents. We are a growing church with a growing faith and I hope to be able to share it with you.