This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a two-day conference called Evolving Faith. It was hosted and curated by some of my favorite Christian writers, Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans. It took place in Montreat, North Carolina. The campus was beautiful, nestled in the arms of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Walking around Lake Susan, exploring the streams and trails, there’s a deep sense of peace. You feel in your bones that you are walking on sacred ground.
Now, what is evolving faith? Each of the speakers at the conference offered a different definition. Evolving faith is a faith that changes. It adapts. It breaks down. It reconstructs. It identifies problematic narratives and strives to imagine new ones. Jen Hatmaker likened it to the story in Genesis about Jacob wrestling with God. Evolving faith is a faith that challenges, questions, wrestles and, like Jacob, has the audacity to ask for a blessing anyway. Jeff Chu introduced us to the “theology of the compost pile” where all the wretched, useless, and discarded things are transformed into rich soil that brings new life. Evolving faith acknowledges the darkness in ourselves and in the world and chooses to light a candle anyway.
What I loved so much about this conference is that it addressed head-on all the topics that are notoriously avoided in United States’ churches. Things that are whispered in the back of our minds as we sit in sanctuaries were named boldly from the stage. Speakers called out the idol of white supremacy, the strength, beauty and dignity of minority communities, the evils of the Trump administration, the immediacy of climate change, and the problematic fact that the majority attendees were white. Speakers called us to both “burn shit down” and strive to be peacemakers. There was rage. There was hope. There was the call to live in tension.