A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: REVISITING OUR MISSION AND CORE VALUES
Recently, as part of their mission strategy work, the Session and the Trustees reviewed our congregation’s Mission Statement and Core Values. You may know that those were adopted in 2019 after considerable work drafting them and soliciting congregational input.
Obviously, they were adopted before the pandemic, and like many churches and other organizations, we are reviewing almost everything that was established before the pandemic to see whether it still has the substance and impact we need to guide us in the post-pandemic world.
I am pleased to report that the Session and Trustees felt that both the Mission Statement and the Core Values of the congregation continue to have real strength and relevance to us on the other side of the pandemic. They made only some minor semantic adjustments to the Mission Statement, which now reads as follows:
To welcome an inclusive and joyful community of Christ’s followers into actively exploring
how God’s gracious love gives meaning to our lives and faith, and inspires us to address
the needs of our changing world. Through our learning, service, and grateful worship,
God fills us with purpose, compassion, courage, and love.
The main change was swapping “diverse” for “inclusive” in the first clause. This was done to maintain our mission to be a congregation that welcomes all kinds of people, and the feeling that “diverse” can be heard as incidental, while “inclusive” suggests true intentionality. Otherwise, there was only some minor rephrasing and word swaps for greater clarity.
In the Core Values section, the church leadership had a substantial conversation around the meaning and implications of the second value statement, which had been “Welcoming to All,” but was finally changed to “Expansively Welcoming.”
This change is more significant than it may sound at first, and in ways that I think are both insightful and important. “Welcoming to All” sounds a bit triumphalist, as if we are fully welcoming to literally all people who ever come through the door.
It was felt that we needed a bit more humility in that statement, because there are always things to learn about both extending hospitality and the ways in which we fall short of that, however authentic our intentions might be.
Even more important, the phrase “Welcoming to All” could be heard in ways that are very different from our intention. The point of that Core Value was to indicate that we will not exclude anyone from participation or leadership in the church based on their identities, sexuality, background, etc.
However, in isolation from the explanatory text, it could be heard as a kind of moral relativism, suggesting that not only are all types of people welcome, but all ideas and commitments are. While we strive to be a “big tent” congregation with a generous approach to personal beliefs in the spirit of the Presbyterian Book of Order’s assertion that “God alone is Lord of the conscience,” we as a church are obviously not welcoming to belief systems that deny the full humanity of certain groups of people in violation of the Bible’s teaching that we are all made in the image of God (e.g., racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc.).
Therefore, the church leadership voted unanimously to change that language to “Expansively Welcoming,” which was felt to better express both the generosity of spirit and fellowship and the importance of not welcoming literally all ideas, however much they may conflict with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, I encourage you to take this opportunity to go to the website and refresh yourself on both our Mission Statement and our Core Values, so you can be an ambassador for this congregation in terms of who we are and what we feel called to do!
Grace and Peace,