Many members of Ascension Memorial Church read Harvey Cox's The Future of Faith this spring and attended his lecture at Ascension in June. One of Cox's assertions in the book, one with which I agree, is that we are moving from an understanding of faith as acceptance of certain beliefs about God to an understanding of faith as a relationship of trust in God. One of Ascension's parishioners recently raised the important question of what Ascension Memorial Church might look like with this new relational understanding of faith. In the book Cox gives examples of communities that are more relational in their understanding of faith, and even though the contexts of these communities are very different from ours, we may be able to take some clues from them.
Engaging with the world: relational faith leads us into the world as we share Jesus' love for the world. While the relationships we have with one another are important, the Church is called to share in Christ's work of reconciliation in the world.
Reading the Bible as a transforming story: rejecting the fundamentalists' literal reading of the Bible, we can read the Bible, as Christians in Latin American base communities do, with a focus on how the biblical stories help us to make sense of our lives and invite us into a deeper relationship with God.
Living with diversity and ambiguity: as we move away from an understanding of faith as acceptance of certain beliefs about God, there will probably be greater theological diversity within our community and a greater willingness to live with ambiguity.
Embracing our marginal status in society: as Church membership becomes less and less socially important, we have the freedom to become a more intentional community of disciples of Jesus.
Are these the only marks of a relational faith community? Certainly not, but I offer them as a beginning for the discussion.