Theological Disparity

by Alyce McKenzie on Friday, June 24, 2016

How does a preacher preach to a congregation that is theologically different from him/her?

 — Submitted by Rev. Amanda Wagoner Meade, Jeffersonville, IN

The situation in which I would find myself would most likely be preaching to a congregation that is more theologically conservative than I am. The differences would come out on several subjects: the interpretation of Scripture, the use of inclusive language, the understanding of Christianity in relation to other faiths, attitudes toward homosexuality, attitudes toward broaching any issue of contemporary political significance from the pulpit, and the relationship of creationism and modern scientific understandings about the origins of our world. I wouldn’t make every week a “Let’s broach this controversial issue” week. I certainly wouldn’t adopt the “My way or the highway” approach- unless I wanted to be reappointed quickly! But neither would I mask my own convictions in sermons that risk nothing and do little beyond confirming listeners’ existing attitudes and behaviors.

Over the course of weeks and months of preaching, I would allow these issues of interpretation to arise and speak to them from the text, our tradition, the understandings of contemporary science and social sciences and the stories of real people and real communities in our world today. I would be clear that these issues are complex, and that I myself struggle with them on the journey. I would be clear that we need to be in dialogue about them as a community and would offer opportunities for dialogue in the life of the church. And, perhaps most important, I would make sure that the congregation experiences me the preacher as their pastor in times of confusion, challenge, loss, sorrow and illness. Those seem to me to be the components of our vocation of “speaking the truth in love” to the people we have been called to serve in our preaching ministries.

Thanks for asking,

Alyce McKenzie


Photo by Adam Ciesielski from FreeImages 

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