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At Riverfront Family Church, we believe in the transformative power of the gospel and the inherent worth and equality of all individuals. Recent events have brought to light the decision by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to expel Saddleback Church due to their stance on the ordination of women. As an American Baptist Church, we stand in solidarity with Saddleback Church and want to address this issue with love, grace, and a commitment to biblical principles.


We fully embrace inclusion and egalitarianism, affirming the gifts and leadership capacity of all people, regardless of their gender or gender identity. We believe that God calls and equips individuals based on their faith, character, and the Holy Spirit's leading, rather than their gender. This conviction is rooted in our understanding of Scripture and the teachings of Jesus.


The decision by the SBC to expel churches like Saddleback Church for their belief in the ordination of women is both unjust and unbiblical. We affirm the biblical basis for equality, which is exemplified throughout Scripture. In Galatians 3:28, the apostle Paul states, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This verse emphasizes the elimination of social distinctions and highlights the unity we share in Christ.


In many ways, Saddleback Church and Rick Warren (who is now retired from the church) are far more conservative theologically than I am or we are at RFC. I fundamentally disagree with their position on LGBTQ+ issues, for example. But I have also learned a tremendous amount from Pastor Rick, Saddkeback, several conferences, books, and teachings that they have provided. I deeply respecy Pastor Rick, even as I disagree with him. Both things are possible.


The SBC's decision to exclude churches for holding differing beliefs goes against the principles of Baptist heritage. The Baptist tradition has long valued the autonomy and diversity of individual churches, allowing for a range of theological perspectives and interpretations. We believe that true unity does not necessitate conformity, but rather a shared commitment to Christ and a respect for one another's convictions.


We want to reaffirm our full commitment to egalitarianism, not just as a practical matter, but as a biblical principle. We celebrate and empower the gifts and callings of both men and women, allowing them to serve and lead in all areas of church ministry. We believe that by embracing egalitarianism, we reflect the heart of God and more fully embody the body of Christ.


As we navigate these complex issues, let us remember the importance of love and respect. We encourage open dialogue, understanding, and a willingness to engage with one another in a spirit of humility and grace. Our commitment to inclusivity and equality is rooted in the love of Christ, and we invite all individuals to join us on this journey of faith.


At Riverfront Family Church, we stand firmly in our conviction to embrace inclusion and full egalitarianism. We believe that every person, regardless of their gender or gender identity, has been gifted by God and is called to contribute to the kingdom of God. We recognize the recent decision by the Southern Baptist Convention as contrary to the biblical principles of equality and Baptist heritage. Let us continue to embody the love of Christ and champion the value and worth of all individuals in our pursuit of a more just and inclusive Church.

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At Riverfront Family Church, we stand firmly committed to the values of peace, allyship, and dismantling systemic racism within our community and beyond. We believe in the power of unity and justice, striving to create an inclusive society that celebrates diversity. It is with deep sadness and righteous indignation that we address the recent incident of Nazi graffiti defacing the Black Lives Matter mural in Hartford, CT. Today, we raise our voices in condemnation of this hateful act and reaffirm our unwavering support for the Black community.


Art has always played a pivotal role in society, serving as a powerful catalyst for change, dialogue, and healing. The Black Lives Matter mural in Hartford is a testament to the resilience and strength of the Black community, a vibrant representation of their struggle for equality and justice. It stands as a unifying symbol, inviting all to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of every individual. The heinous act of defacing this mural with Nazi symbolism attempts to undermine the progress we have made and fosters an environment of fear and division.


As followers of Christ, we are called to denounce hate in all its forms. The Nazi graffiti found on the Black Lives Matter mural goes against everything we stand for as a church community. We categorically condemn this act of vandalism, as it not only defaces a powerful expression of the Black community's voice but also perpetuates the oppression and suffering that people of color have endured for far too long. This act reminds us of the ongoing fight against racism and the urgent need to continue working together to dismantle systemic injustice.


Now, more than ever, it is crucial for us to come together as allies, standing alongside our Black siblings and neighbors. We must raise our voices in solidarity, amplifying the call for justice and equity. This incident serves as a reminder of the work still to be done to eradicate racism from our society. We are committed to standing with the Black community, not only in times of crisis but every day, as we strive to create a world where everyone can thrive and flourish without fear of discrimination or hate.


We must channel our anger and frustration into action. This act of hate has ignited a fire within us, fueling our determination to continue the fight against racism. As a church community, we will support local initiatives that promote racial justice, engage in conversations that challenge our biases, and actively seek to dismantle systemic racism. We will work tirelessly to foster an environment where all are treated with dignity, respect, and love.


Riverfront Family Church stands firmly against the Nazi graffiti on the Black Lives Matter mural in Hartford, CT. We condemn this act of hate and reaffirm our commitment to peace, allyship, and dismantling systemic racism. Let us unite as a community, embracing diversity, and working together towards a society that upholds justice and equality for all. Together, we can overcome hate and create a future where love prevails and every life is valued.

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  • Writer's pictureMichael Minch

Our country is in a crisis. The church is in a crisis. There may be other countries in which both of these sentences are true, but certainly they are true in the United States. The church’s crisis is manifest in at least three ways. First, the rise of “Christian” nationalism, “Christian” partnership with white supremacy and authoritarianism, and “Christian” fear, bigotries, and hatred that have aligned with the radical right. Second (and related), the Christian support of neoliberal institutions and structures that are destructive to human life and human security. Third (and related), the loss of a compelling story to tell, the loss of reasons to give, the loss of demonstrating the radical love, justice, and peace of the Reign (“Kingdom”) of God inaugurated by Jesus. People are declining the invitation to give their lives to Jesus. Why would they? The church does not make talk about Jesus appealing, to say the least. Far too often, we do not walk what we talk—except when our talk is bigoted, fearful, and hateful.


In the second section of Mark’s story of Jesus (Mark 2.1—3.6), we are presented with five episodes that demonstrate Jesus’ true and powerful authority, in contrast to the weak and narcissistic authority of the religious authorities. The paragraph above notes a crisis of the church related to our lack of spiritual and moral authority (“authority” is one word for power).

In the midst of these episodes, Jesus uses two metaphors to indicate something of his power and the Reign of God he is initiating. He says, “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”


Jesus’ metaphors are meant to help us see that the Good News of God’s Reign (rule, or regime) is not simply some modification of the religious, cultural, social, and political forms we already have. God did not “tear open the heavens and come down” (Isa. 64.1) just to make us into reformists. Tinkering with sinful structures, whether religious, cultural, economic, or political, is, to say the least, not enough. Paul writes to the church in Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world… “Romans 12.1-2). Reforming is too much conforming. To be conformed to a deceitful world is to be deceitful. To be conformed to a inegalitarian world is to be an inegalitarian. To be conformed to a world filled with systems of oppression is to abide oppression. To be conformed to a violent world is to participate in violence.


And yet. We live in a world where small steps are often necessary. Where we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Where we have to have patience and practice “a long obedience in the same direction” (Nietzsche). The early modern Reformers spoke of a “reformed church always reforming.” The Anabaptists said reform is not enough, but rather the church needed to be restored. There has always been a tension in the church between the wisdom of reformation and the Gospel call to rebirth, new life (cf. 2 Corinthians 5.17), and radical change. New wine must have new wineskins. Our Mark study group had a fun time discussing this tension. A tension that we cannot escape.


I am blessed to belong to the community of Jesus called Riverfront Family Church. It is a community where we struggle with this tension rather than ignore it. We strive to embody the Reign of God in powerful and authoritative ways that are compelling and healing. We strive to embody Love for everyone. We strive to share the new wine of the Gospel and to be a new wineskin for it. As I write this, I do not mean to engage in self-congratulation. We embody failings too. Perhaps we are not as radical or loving as we claim to be, or not as consistently so.

But it is a powerful measure of grace for me to belong to a community such as ours. I believe we strive in the tension, seeking to be agents of God’s Good News in the world. Riverfront feels like new wine to me, still fermenting…


Thank you for reading,

Michael



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