(Sept 15: Fairfax, VA) "Seeker of the week" Mark Gill didn't get far in his questions about how a loving God could send people to hell at last night's discussion at Highview Christian Fellowship of the book I've co-authored with Bishop Thomas, The Bishop and The Seeker. In my absence, Mark and Bishop Thomas read aloud from Chapter 8 in which Bishop tells me no Christian has any business worrying about who is going to hell, and each person is responsible for only as much light as they are given.
Mark is an ex-Pentecostal turned "spiritually homeless" by dogmatism, hypocrisy, and what he learned at divinity school. "I didn't backslide," he told the group, "I fled. And now I'm just interested in finding a higher level of truth." Reading as me, he got a laugh with the final line, "Wouldn't you be fired if anybody knew you believed these things?" he says to Bishop Thomas. "That's the first thing I thought as I read this book," Mark added on his own.
Mark said that what attracts him to this series is the unusual opportunity to learn each others' views of God in a safe environment that welcomes questions.
Learning the truth
"But I come to learn the truth," said one participant.
Bishop Thomas said that worrying about conditions for salvation can distract Christians from the mission Jesus outlined in Luke 4:18: "To preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed."
Rev Trish on New Thought
Celebration Center of Spiritual Living, an interfaith center in the New Thought movement. She shared her view of the need to continually honor our own divine nature within. She said that we could all get along in the world by realizing the commonalities among our beliefs rather than letting religion tear us apart.
Bishop Thomas responded that she might have an idealistic view because of her life circumstances.
"Since you brought up the subject ..." said Rev. Trish, and she shared some of her background of extensive childhood abuse. "I am not the victim of my past. Victimhood is a choice. I know I am free to choose how I experience my life. I choose to live life fully and to serve God and hopefully make a difference ..."
In the quiet that followed, Bishop Thomas skipped his customary wrapup comments."I can't add anything to that," he said. "Let's close with a prayer."
Because I had to teach that night, I am relying on reports from attendees. But several people told me how much they appreciated Rev. Trish's warm, engaging, funny, and personal stories in explaining her beliefs. The feeling was mutual and Rev. Trish declared her intention to return for the remaining two sessions. Folks also reported enjoying Mark's sincere quest for truth. "He was in his element," I heard.
Two more Wednesday nights
September 22: Laurie from Celebration Center takes my place as seeker of the week. Laurie is a ministerial student at the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York. They'll be reading from Chapter 20, Living for Heaven or Earth?
September 29: I return to discuss Chapter 9, "My Intuition is Your Holy Spirit"
Please join us for the series:
"Telling Seekers the Truth About the Bible"
Robert Frost Middle School, Cafeteria
4101 Pickett Rd, Fairfax, VA