Four years ago after a tense presidential election, Lexington Theological Seminary hosted a teach-in where participants gathered to talk about what happened and find a way to move forward with grace and hope.
This past November, at the end of yet another tense election, LTS again offered a teach-in with the same purpose as the previous one. “For Such a Time as This” was held in the midst of ongoing challenges to the election results. More than 50 people joined the Zoom presentation.
The necessity for this gathering was apparent. “Four years ago, there was palpable distress and palpable fear,” said LTS President Dr. Charisse Gillett. “We responded to that in the moment.” Dr. Gillett noted how important it was for LTS to provide space for its community to think and talk about what they were experiencing. “Our students and alums will be pastoring and guiding a divided church,” she said. “As we try to find ways to be in conversation and relationship and at the table with one another, we must find ways to hear one another and to break up the divide that is present in our churches.”
Dr. Jerry Sumney led a segment that looked at Philippians, noting, “This is not the first time the church had to deal with struggle and strife.” Paul told the Philippians persecution should not be surprising. He spoke about how he faced persecution himself and advised the Philippians to “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,” to stand strong and not be afraid because they were citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus gave up a place of honor and glory to give himself in obedience to a shameful death for the good of other people, Dr. Sumney explained. “He makes this an example for us to follow – to put the needs of others above our own good. Now is the time for us to begin discussing the values of the faith,” he added. “These are sometimes contrary to our cultural and national values. We should get to the point where we have real talk about how some policies turn us away from God’s kingdom.”
Dr. Emily Askew spoke about the difficulty of finding a way through the quagmire of different opinions of the Gospel call. “Christ and the Holy Spirit should shape our understanding of what it means to be the Body of Christ,” she said. “Unity is not uniformity. We forget each part performs a function other parts can’t perform. That uniqueness makes them perfect and the diversity makes everything work.” Unity, she affirmed, is a journey. “The creation of unity means the establishment of a holy community.”
Dr. Leah Schade pointed out some good things actually happened during the election. “We learned we can vote in a pandemic. The threats of violence did not materialize. People came together in positive ways. Clergy and congregations supported the democratic process.” On the flip side, there was voter suppression, and intimidation and threats of violence are ongoing and could escalate. “There is a long road ahead for dismantling racism, hatred, fear and inequity [in this] nation divided by white Christian nationalism,” Dr. Schade said. “We must tell the truth about how the church has played a role in it by fomenting, ignoring or being silent.” Dr. Schade advised pastors not to exacerbate anger but instead keep things calm. “We still have lots of work to do. But we do this work with joy.”
Participants were invited to join covenant groups to share their reactions, continue the discussion, and find new ways to move forward together as congregations and as a nation.
“Our mission here at LTS is to educate clergy and lay leaders for God’s church,” Dr. Gillett said. “This teach-in is part of doing that. Our prayer is to help the church become a source of freedom, power, and courage for all.”
You can watch a reply of the teach in at https://youtu.be/bupfACBeehM.