The Colorful Kingdom of God

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by Jen Rude, ELM Program Director

Last Friday I had the privilege of attending a workshop on Creative Activism, hosted by Table to Action – a project of Auburn Seminary. Proclaim member Emily Ewing was also present.

colorful kingdom of GodIt was a day filled with inspiration and affirmation about the important work we all do together.  When I saw my partner Deb at the end of the day she looked at my hand with a worried look before she realized it wasn’t blood – it was magic marker!  (You can see our group’s artistic imagination in the photo – moving from the world as it is to the world as it can be – a messy, colorful, faithful, creative, communal path).

One of the activities we did as part of our introductions was to each say what we were working on and what a “win” would look like for us – the passage of a bill, a more inclusive church, funding for a community center, etc.  Participants included pastors, community organizers, youth project leaders, professors and more.  After we all shared, our facilitators used one participant as an example.  “We’re from the future,” they said.  “Congratulations! You’ve won. Now, what’s next?” and the participant named another victory, to which they replied, “Now you’ve won that!  What does the world look like?  What’s next?” and back and forth they went until the participant finally (with more than a little exasperation) said, “Then the kingdom of God would be here in Chicago!”

Now each of us were invited individually to go through the same process for our own work – imagine we’ve won (gifted and called LGBTQ rostered leaders are actively serving churches and ministries throughout our church), what does it look like (dynamic ministry, witness to the Good News), what’s next (others feel inspired to follow their callings, to re-think what church is and could be, bold proclamation to the gospel in creative new ways), and on and on.

We start to notice along the way our separate particular issues started to look and sound similar (communities are inspired, different kinds of people are working together), and as we went further along, we began to see that we were all ending up in the same place – the kingdom of God.  You could feel the energy and joy in the room.  What we are working for is not just the passage of this bill, or the end to this particular form of discrimination, or a commitment from this funder. What we are working toward is nothing less than the kingdom of God.

It’s important to keep the big picture in mind.  And sometimes we need magic markers and laughter and each other to envision what it could look like – and to believe it is possible.

In our work at ELM, we work hard to support and affirm LGBTQ pastors, candidates and seminarians, and to engage allied congregations and ministries not just because we love LGBTQ people (which, we do) and not just because LGBTQ people need jobs (which, they do).  We work hard to engage people in this bold witness to our church because ultimately our work is not just to create a better church for LGBTQ children of God; it’s to help usher in the beautiful, diverse, creative, whole, joyful, fabulous, colorful kingdom of God.

Our vision together is that big.  And we’re going to need a lot of creative coloring to get there.

Thanks for being a part of this colorful work!