Like Jessica and Tom I, too, went to sunny Orlando for RCA Conversations. Jessica did a great job at offering an overview of the event. On my personal blog I reflect on how uncomfortable I felt with some of the nomenclature used at Conversations. I also wrote a piece on the prophetic nature of the rapper Lupe Fiasco and what wasn't being said at Conversations.
This blog I dedicate to Rev. Ann Kansfield and Rev. Abby Norton-Levering who taught me how to stand up for total depravity.
My friends and colleagues, Rev. Leslie Holmes and Liz Testa, worked it on the mics as the MC's for the event. We were lead in a quick 'get to know ya' game where we were asked to stand up if any of the statements applied to us. "Stand up if you have been a pastor for more than 25 years" "Stand up if you have been a pastor for less than 5 years" etc... One of the statements we were invited to stand up to was this: "Stand up if you use the words total depravity on a regular basis". Out of the 500+ good ol' Calvinist that were in there only a handful of people (less than 20?) stood up. I was one of them that stayed glued to my chair. Total depravity...how...I don't know...how depressing!
The Conversation after Conversations
I quickly learned that some of the best conversations took place after the official Conversation. This is where I was able to hear my colleagues who did stand up for total depravity express their concern over the fact that not many people stood up for this (kinda big deal to Calvinist) theology. Being the curious soul I am I listened intently to people I respected make a case for total depravity. I remember one person exclaiming that the theology of total depravity allowed her to be more gracious with the people around her. When you know that the people are totally depraved you make more room for messiness and brokenness. Brokenness doesn't shock you anymore because in some ways that is the norm. I listened to these brilliant colleagues of mine make a case for total depravity and I quickly learned that I, too, wanted to stand up for total depravity. I was shocked by just how much of a Calvinist I have become (let's not touch on the L of TULIP in this blog though, OK? That's a whole other struggle).
So on this Ash Wednesday, my favorite day in the church calendar, I stand up for total depravity. I stand up to the fact that I am one giant, messy, sinner like you and you and you and you... Because as my kindred spirit in the ELCA, Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber writes "There is actually great hope in admitting my mortality and brokenness because then I finally lay aside my sin management program and allow God to be God for me. Which is all any of us really need when it comes down to it."
I think it's time to die and go lead my congregation in some Ashing now.