Dear sisters and brothers,
I am writing to share with you the launch of a new diocesan-wide formation initiative for the coming year and beyond. This past year, we read together the book of Exodus and we worked as a diocese and in our congregations to move out to serve the neighborhoods that surround us. As we continue to grow as followers of Jesus, we are committing to “Becoming Beloved Community.”
Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has challenged the church to focus on becoming “beloved community.” (See more) This is a direct reference to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s way of talking about the kingdom of God. Dr. King was insisting that the reign of God can and must begin to be realized in our time.
Dr. King’s notion of beloved community was derived, at least in part, from his study of the late nineteenth-century American philosopher, Josiah Royce. Royce argued that we find our fulfillment and our truth in committing ourselves to justice, mercy and loyalty to one another, in ways that do not exclude the stranger. This is not just a moral imperative. It must arise from our deep desire for this kind of relationship with one another and with the human race as a whole. Hence, the term “beloved community” connotes the possibility of a diverse association of people joined together by a common commitment to be one while being open to the stranger.
So “beloved community” means two things together. On the one hand, it means community we love. On the other hand, it means unpredictable community we might not have expected, made up of different races, languages, classes, partisan persuasions and religious affiliations. This is the God-given community we are being called to love, whatever narrower kind of company we are privately or habitually predisposed to.
This is the exodus we are invited into: out of narrowness into breadth. The New Testament is constantly picking up on the exodus theme (since this is what Jesus is all about), but the most sustained reprise of that story is the sequel to Luke’s Gospel, The Acts of the Apostles. That book traces the dynamic movement of the church from its first beginnings on Pentecost in Jerusalem outwards into the larger Jewish and then pagan world. Acts tells the story of the fledgling church’s embrace of the wide and messy community God is calling us to love.
With this in mind, our next Big Read will focus on the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, from this coming Advent until Pentecost. We will commit to not only reading these books together but to exploring the kind of Beloved Communities we are called to create and nurture as a diocese. To make it possible for our entire diocese to embrace this call to Becoming Beloved Community, I have appointed a Becoming Beloved Community Task Force and have given them charge of developing this initiative. All of the work highlighted here in this email has come out of the task force, and I give thanks for their hard and thoughtful work.
More information on the BBC initiative will be coming in the September issue of Connections. We also have developed a special website, www.DSOBeloved.org, as a “one-stop shop” for all things relating to Becoming Beloved Community. I encourage you to visit this website regularly as events, workshops, trainings and more are added.
The Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Breidenthal