Last week in our NT-NL Leader news, I blogged about the concept of religious freedom in America and the various ways in which that has been understood historically and currently. And I reminded those on that list that our 2020 Leadership Convocation is coming soon (Oct 19-20) and relates to that very topic. Most of us have been taught at some point that the Puritans came to North America in significant part to be able to worship as their conscious desired. However, this understanding of religious liberty was not necessarily extended to others and their conscious. Within just a couple decades of establishing their first colony an issue of religious liberty arose in the case of Roger Williams. Williams was expelled by the Puritan leaders from Massachusettsvfor spreading “new and dangerous ideas”, including a clear understanding of the separation of church and state. In1636 he founded Providence, Rhode Island as a refuge, and in 1638 founded the First Baptist Church in America.
The question of what this little history lesson has to do with us today is a good one. Is this relevant to our lives as church leaders in 2020? Given the current discourse in our nation related to issues of religious freedom I would argue it is essential that we as church leaders know some of this history better and how it influences the world we live in today. Debates over an individuals right to serve or not serve someone based on who that person is do not exist in a vacuum and church leaders, lay and ordained, can learn a great deal from this history. Understanding the history we then can look forward towards the future and how these concepts of religious liberty play out in interfaith and ecumenical conversations. Once again it is a way that we care for our neighbors. So I hope you will take advantage of this online opportunity offered to any in our synod who desire to participate.