A couple of weeks ago, I attended a meeting of the Gathering of Leaders, as I do every year. We tend to focus on the obligations from which we are freed, not the obligations our faith lays upon us.
As many of our congregations bump up against financial difficulty due to various factors (*cough* zombie church *cough*), there will be endless opportunities to be creative.
Within congregations we don’t much like accountability either, whether it’s measuring the effectiveness of ministries or even the more basic challenge of staying in relationship. Folks who take the story of the goats and the sheep and transform it into a new law (however good a law it might be) miss the point of the story. Neither the sheep nor the goats are in any ways aware that what they are doing involves Jesus.
I hope you don’t mind Scott but I just linked to this article over on The Daily Cake. Original content here, written by Scott Gunn, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
This particular post is just a collection of photos taken by various artists, and Designzzz does not hold the rights of these images.
Freedom Concept Photographs This is a collection of images which contain the feel of freedom. It’s a great colleague group, and I also enjoy the way each year’s theme generates discussion.
As I heard various presentations and spent time in small groups, I realized how many of the challenges we face as clergy and lay leaders are wrapped up in the intersection of freedom, creativity, and accountability.
You can see this on all side of the conflicts in the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church, where folks are quick to jettison others, rather than understanding our obligation to honor and nurture the Body of Christ.
Finding a way to stay in that beloved old building and continue ministry there requires creative approaches.
The Gathering of Leaders conference raised a number of issues for me, and I don’t think there are easy answers.
When it comes to creativity, what you say reminds me of similar things I have heard in other contexts. I am so happy for you if your church is growing, but if you are abusing people to get there…not so much.

After many animal photography posts, today I’m changing the flavour and making a concept photography post. To acquire this permission, you should visit the source page, and to do that, you will have to click on the name of the picture (which is you can find right above the picture).
This year’s theme is “Freedom, Creativity, and Accountability.” There’s a long subtitle and some blahblah, but the gist of the theme is in those three words (not counting “and,” of course). Whether it’s politics or economics, we tend to practice a kind of discourse that privileges freedom above anything else.
Or in congregations, clergy and lay leaders do what they want, flouting tradition and church discipline, out of an exaggerated sense of entitlement, hubris, or can-do American-style bravado. The tension between freedom and our servant role is not easy, and anyone who says it is easy is lying or has not grappled with the issues presented in scriptures and tradition. We laugh nervously about the parables in which Jesus teaches us that we are obligated to care for those who have less than us or, God forbid, sell what we have and give the money to the poor. Mostly, I think we as a church and as leaders need to wrestle with some of this a bit more. Like a woman who wrote a cookbook of Passover recipes who talked about how creative Jews have been over the centuries making recipes in dozens of cultural contexts that still adhere to Kosher laws. Sure, there are lots of ways to be prophetic and to advance change, but there is an inherent tension. Pulling out a bunch of red balloons on the Day of Pentecost isn’t really very creative at all, but preaching a sermon that invites people into the life of the Spirit requires great creativity.
We are long past the point where slapping “mission” or the buzzword d’jour into job titles and committee names will pass for effective creativity.
My congregation shrunk in attendance over the last few years, and people want to ask me hard questions? While I’m not sure the “Do good or go to hell” line of ethical teaching was helpful, I’m quite sure the “Be nice and it will all work out” line of ethical teaching is deadly for our world, our church, and our own souls. Or even my son’s film teacher who imposes at least one limit or requirement on the team when they make a movie each semester. Our pendulum has swung way over to the “I will do whatever I want” end of the spectrum, and this is true not just in the Episcopal Church but in many other churches as well.
Our freedom, in other words, means that our salvation comes not from following a set of rules, but from following Jesus.

We need to seize our gift of freedom, but we also need to keep a careful eye on our obligations to our fellow Christians and others.
The sheep did what they did because it was the right thing to do, not because Jesus was there.
Paul of course reminds us that we Christians are indeed freed from the Law, but that freedom comes at a cost. Perhaps if we think about our place in the church a bit like a marriage, the example will click.
Oh, you mean the liturgy of the church as presented in the Book of Common Prayer isn’t optional? I think it would be useful to establish some specific metrics of accountability and performance. When is the last time you heard a sermon about our binding obligations to one another, preached in a way that actually confronted you in specific ways? We need to find ways to proclaim the Gospel in our time, but we need to immerse ourselves in the scriptures first. In Paul’s view, we are meant to subject our freedom to any number of tests, including whether or not our own actions are edifying to others. Staying married to one person for many decades might seem uncreative, but spend any time with a couple who’s managed that, and you’ll uncover a deep well of creative love. We need to savor the gift of our Anglican liturgical heritage, but we need to find ways to draw people into that great and deep mystery.
In other words, we have freedom from some constraints, but the follower of Jesus is, in fact, merely a servant to other Christians and indeed to seekers (and perhaps to the world). Then act upon your truth with love and good intention.It is in my experience freedom comes from within.

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