STATEMENT REGARDING “SEND THEM BACK”

We envision and work towards a world where synagogues, mosques and churches work together to protect each other and celebrate the diversity of their communities.
Our message to the world is one of empathy, understanding and meaningful relationship. Through telling our individual stories we hope to be the voice of America which speaks louder than chants of “go back”, and instead embraces the idea that our differences are an asset and strength to be celebrated.

“We will never go back. We will only go forward. We are boldly moving forward to amplify that each of our unique experiences and diverse stories is what makes us better,” said Wendy Goldberg, Interim Executive Director of Tri-Faith Initiative.

“We are guided by our various faith traditions to pursue dialogue, meaningful interaction and the fostering of relationships. We are dedicated to building bridges across whatever may divide us,” said Dr. Maryanne Stevens, Tri-Faith Initiative Board Chair.
(https://mailchi.mp/trifaith/statement-of-the-tri-faith-initiative?e=f9f4d7852f)

The church and Christ

There is a great temptation to talk about the church or about morality and to forget to talk about Christ. There is a temptation to make Christianity all about being “good” or being “moral”. Morality may continue to shift downward with each passing year, yet God’s standard of righteousness doesn not change. However, the message cannot just be morality or even righteousness — it has to be salvation. Righteousness is part of the journey to salvation, but salvation is the goal.

The even greater temptation is to talk about the church and not about Christ. We would probably say something like “come to my church, the Services are great, the people are friendly and welcoming; and they have a great youth program”. Think how we may evaluate our church: “We are full on Sundays, we have a beautiful church building, an awesome choir, we are growing, and the calendar is full of activities”. The name of Christ does not appear in any of these statements.

This elicits the question: Do we have a relationship with Christ or the church? Has our relationship with Christ changed our life enough that we would want to invite other people to Christ? These are challenging questions, because it is possible to have a relationship with the church but not with Christ. It is possible to even be a leader in the church and not have a relationship with Christ. It is possible to love the church and not to love Christ. Thus, it is possible to invite others to church but not to Christ.

The church building does not change one’s life. Christ, the one, whom we worship in the building, does. The choir does not change our life, but singing praises to the Lord builds our relationship with Christ. Socializing with just any group of people is not going to get me to salvation, but associating with people who are encouraging me to a spiritual journey gets me in that direction.

Let us all take a collective look at how often we invoke the name of the Lord — how present the name of Christ is in sermons, on church websites and in conversations. Is He mentioned at Parish Council meetings or at Parish events? The “business” of the Church, i.e. its very purpose, is to spread the Gospel of Christ. It is Christ through the Church who saves us; not the church, but Christ.

O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him, tell of all His wonderful works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and His strength, seek his presence continuously. Remember the wonderful works that He has done, His miracles and the judgments He uttered, O offspring of Abraham, His servant, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones. He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He is mindful of His covenant forever (Psalm 105: 1-8).

We need to talk less about the church and more about Christ!

(Originally from the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Here slightly abbreviated, including corrections of English grammar and punctuation)