Another question from the Staff. (second to the last!)
How can we ever satisfactorily respond to a call for more theological grounding
with all of our diversity?
I have spent the past semester on Sabbatical at our Meadville Lombard Seminary, and more than once I've listened to the theological talk around me and thought, with Dr. McCoy of Star Trek, who proclaimed in the midst of his tech-topped sickbay, "I'm just a country doctor, Jim!"
I'm just a simple parish pastor. I've got a hunch about "calls for more theological grounding". I think what it really means is, "I just want to be able to explain my faith to my friends and family and myself."
Doing that is not the task of theologians, it is the task of preachers.
The theology which is at the core of our freedom and our diversity (which is the big difference between ourselves and the other denominations around) is actually simple, fun to talk about, and has been around for a long, long time. I first heard it from Bill Schultz, but it resonated because it had been the underpinnings of my Sophia Lyon Fahs sunday school lessons, one year of which was called, if I remember correctly, "Miracles Abound!" (which was basically a natural history curriculum whose goal was to elicit wonder.)
We enjoy our theological differences and benefit from discussing them openly because we believe that the world is intricate, complex, beautiful, multi-faceted ....too much of all these things for one simple set of words to express The Whole Truth. Therefore, we enjoy multiple sets of words, practices, and structures and a dollop of irony as we talk about them as if our words could ever embrace them. Our story is the story of the blind men and the elephant and we rejoice in what we can do together. Our practice is that of respect for the worth and dignity of all beings, starting with the conversation partners we find challenging.
That's the "Torah standing on one foot" version. I think it is enough if it is preached consistently and creatively, and of other programming lives it out.
There will be some who want to parse that more deeply and theological study is the way to do that. Most of the rest of us just need different versions of the same basic theology.