Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed cross the road? According to Brian McLaren (who uses that question as the title of his new book) it was to get to the other. His vision of Christian identity in a multifaith world begins with relationship, particularly with the one who is different. We are in a time of great change in the institutional church which challenges us to face what we choose to use to create identity. For too long we have tied our identity to how closely we resembled those who are like us and proudly wore the labels: Congregational, Presbyterian, Catholic, Evangelical, Conservative, Liberal, Charismatic, on and on... Now the time has come when even terms like Progressive and Emergent are attempting to capture an elusive thing that seems to change the moment it is named. We may find ourselves better served, albeit less clear, by hyphenated terms that begin with post, such as Post-denominational, Post-liberal, Post-conservative, even Post-religious. We may not know where we are going but we can see where we are leaving. All of that can be very unsettling if we find our comfort and meaning in the familiar. Although my recent experience at the Wild Goose Festival proved to me that sometimes it is even more troubling to visit the places you have already been.
The Wild Goose Festival is a wild collection of Christians (and a sprinkling of other seekers, some even agnostic) who are committed to justice and Jesus. Too often a passion for one has led to a reduction in passion for the other. My own journey reflects that. As I left Evangelicalism in part because it lacked a passion for justice I found fewer people in my new circles who had a passion for scripture and following Jesus. This was OK since it felt more comfortable leaving the old ways behind. But at the Wild Goose Festival I kept finding myself in conversation with Evangelicals and Charismatics who helped to remind me of the gifts of the paths I once shared with them. Now, I have become very accustomed to the quarrels that break out when I share my views with Evangelicals. Sometimes I've been up for a rousing debate and other times I've stayed silent to keep the peace. But at the Wild Goose I was able to casually mention that I had performed a number of same-sex weddings without being put on the defensive. There were conversations everywhere about restorative justice and combating poverty and none of it was specific to a theological perspective. It kind of felt like a bit of heaven on earth. The gift in it for me was the insight that my desire to discover the church beyond walls is also an inner journey. I had built walls across the path behind me as I have journeyed in life. The Wild Goose helped me to start tearing them down so that I can reclaim the church in its fulness.
Eric Elnes, host of DarkwoodBrew and pastor of Countryside Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska likes to talk about this new thing that is happening as convergence. He has sold me on the concept. For all those spiritually homeless people who are tired of the way judgmental religion divides us, we now can converge in shared beliefs and passions leaving behind divisive dogma and forced judgments. There are Evangelicals who are embracing justice they way Liberals have. And there are Liberals finding a passion for following Jesus akin to the way Evangelicals have always done it. Maybe you are ready to migrate to a position that is hyphenated that begins with "post". I know that I am. Maybe together we can be the Convergent Church.