Ask a Young Clergy Woman: Working With Potential Partners With Theological Differences

Post Author: Askie

This week, Askie welcomes Andrea-Roske Metcalfe, Fidelia Magazine Writer in Residence, as a guest columnist.

Bible being held by two hands up in air, in the midst of a crowd

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Dear Askie,

As a Young Clergy Woman who serves a mostly-progressive Christian congregation, I find myself constantly frustrated by requests for collaboration or rental of our building space from more conservative Christian organizations whose theology radically differs from our own. How might I compassionately but firmly explain our church’s unwillingness to partner with these organizations based on their oftentimes exclusive stances on women’s rights, LBGTQIA+ rights, difference of ability, etc.?



Dear Frustrated,

Askie generally exercises caution in using the labels “progressive” and “conservative” as catch-all terms. For example, it is possible to be both socially progressive and fiscally conservative. At the same time, Askie understands your dilemma and hopes the following template provided by Fidelia Writer in Residence Andrea Roske-Metcalfe will be helpful to you in responding to unsolicited requests.

All best wishes,

Dear [insert contact name],

Thanks for your [e-mail/phone call/letter/visit]. We’ve decided we’re going to pass on your [request/invitation] to partner with our congregation. We took a look at [insert organization name]’s [website/statement of faith/mission statement], and there are quite a few places where our values as a congregation diverge from the way your organization [understands/defines/limits/embodies] Christianity.

For example – we don’t believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. We believe it’s the inspired word of God, written in particular contexts by imperfect people in relationship with a perfect God, inviting everyone who reads it to wrestle with what the scriptures mean for us as Jesus-followers in our particular time and place.

This point alone means we’re already going to disagree on some key markers of [insert congregation’s name]’s Christian identity. We’re an open and affirming congregation, for one, explicitly welcoming of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in all facets of our community life – we will marry them, bury them, welcome them to the sacraments, and welcome them as clergy (though admittedly not in that order).

Our read of scripture also has something to say about how we treat women: we let them do All The Things, and not just in the kitchen, especially since so many of them are damn fine preachers and teachers. In fact, we believe that people of all genders – including those who are transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming – help us to better understand who God is, since each and every person is created in God’s very image. As such, we welcome their full and equal participation. Related to this valuing of the image of God in all people, we equally welcome people of color into membership and leadership in our congregation, and we are intentional in checking our white privilege to create space for meaningful learning, repentance, and healing when it comes to racism and racial justice.

Finally, we note the use of the word “man” in your [statement of faith/mission statement] to denote all people, which we simply cannot abide, given that more than half of us are not men. We believe that men would be angry if we called everyone “women,” and it has become increasingly clear that patriarchy is a terrible idea for all of humanity, men included.

We understand that you might balk at these ideas, especially since you can see from our website that we regularly partner with organizations and faith communities from different faith traditions, many of which whom don’t subscribe to all the beliefs we’ve articulated above. Your [request/invitation] made note of the fact that “we’re all in this for Jesus,” and indeed, perhaps we are. The difference we see is that our relationships with these friends and partners from other faith traditions not only help us to better understand them and their beliefs and practices, but also to expand our own understanding of the Christ who isn’t bound by Christian institutions. Our experience from your communication with us thus far is that you seek to limit who Jesus is, and therefore what Christianity is about, in a way that goes against our understanding of the Gospel message. Simply put, we are “all in it for Jesus” in very different ways.

We thank you for your interest in [our congregation/what we’re about/our name recognition in the greater community that you could leverage to your own advantage/our beautiful facilities that would be great for your next big event/our prime location for your satellite offices], but if you’d take our names off your contact list, we’d appreciate it.

[List your name(s) and title(s) here.]

Andrea Roske-Metcalfe is the associate pastor at Grace Lutheran Church of Apple Valley, Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Luke, and their two daughters.

Image by: Aaron Burden
Used with permission
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