In the interest of transparency, and because I now know how, I have uploaded the paper I presented at the conference in Lund to Google Docs. The version given there is the one I actually read, edited to fit the time constraints of a conference presentation.
Some readers of this blog might wonder why we have been expending so much thought and effort on various church committees and Assemblies, Scottish or Canadian. I mean, what difference does it make? Who actually listens to church pronouncements in either country these days? In addition, some of the points are technical and just this side of abstruse. (You can decide which side that is.) And neither Alana nor I have any official authority at the particular General Assemblies in question. We run the risk of sounding like little more than overeducated cranks or naive idealists.
Here are my own reasons.
1. It’s personal. I am an ordained Minister of Word and Sacraments. I have served in varying capacities in two denominations within the Reformed tradition of Christianity. I am currently seeking a call, either to a congregation or to an academic post, but even if I end up teaching at a university, I will remain a minister. My ordination does not go away. Add to this the fact that my spouse is Jewish. She is not going to stop being Jewish, keeping kosher, observing Jewish holidays, or grappling with her own tradition. Wherever I am called to go, I need to know that the people there will accept my family as we are. When people ask why my partner does not attend church, I need to know that the obvious answer is not going to create such a surge of ill-feeling that it be a foundation of conflict and bitterness. Ministry requires trust, not just a congregation trusting in their minister, but a minister trusting in their congregation. I care about what happens in these various church committees because I want to lessen any possibility of going into a toxic workplace situation.
2. It’s about theological method and possibility. I think there is an opportunity for some solid, profound reflection to happen, and I believe I can contribute. Moreover, I was taught that learning to do theology meant learning to look at the world with theological eyes, to try to understand what is going on and what God might be trying to say to people about themselves, other people, the world, and God’s own self. It also means sharing what you observe and what you construct. Therefore: coverage in the blog, fumbling, blustery and haphazard though it might be.
3. It’s about an ethical choice. Throughout my life, the people whom I have respected and turned to for wisdom, the people who have taught me and formed me to be who I am, have all tried their best to teach me to do what is right, to have courage to stick to my convictions, to stand in solidarity with those in need. I have to do what I can to speak up when other people are being denigrated, when their humanity or their value is being diminished in any way. So, to put it bluntly, I know I should not sit idle when someone in an institution with which I am affiliated even unconsciously makes the suggestion that another group of people in one’s own country does not really belong. And any implication that Canadian Jewish people (or any other group in a country like Canada) are just visitors, just transient passersby in a ‘host’ country (as if they are parasites or a country belongs only to a select few) is simply pernicious. It must not go unchallenged.
Those are my reasons, such as they are. I hope they don’t make me a self-righteous, combative idiot. I trust you to tell me if they do.