Two friends, who probably don’t know each other, sent me notices about a conference at Stony Point, “Confessing When Empire Trembles: Belhar and Accra Confessions in Conversation--
A Colloquium on North American & Caribbean Reformed Justice Theology.” I noticed immediately that the title of the conference does not say confessing Christ, but just confessing.
I am unfamiliar with most of the speakers, but one does stand out. That is Rebecca Todd Peters, Professor at Elon University and Editor and contributor to Justice in a Global Economy: Strategies for Home, Community, and World. Peters has also written a contributing chapter to the book Body and Soul” Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love. The chapter is entitled, “Embracing God as Goddess: Exploring Connections between Female Sexuality, Naming the Divine and Struggling for Justice.”
One announcement about the Conference suggests that the speakers are very good, and another that the Accra Confession is “non-doctrinal” in its critique. Both of these thoughts contribute to my own perceptions of the problems looming in the Church if Belhar is adopted into our Book of Confessions. The Accra Confession is about economics with a rather hazy socialist point of view. While it makes some good points about the needs of the marginalized and needy it gives economic definitions and interpretations that many in the Reformed churches would not agree with.
Probably Accra’s biggest problem is not the stance it is coming from, socialism versus capitalism, but rather the idea that a confession for the Church could be a confession about economics no matter from which position. A Confession must first confess Christ and then allow all Church problems to fall under his Lordship.
But that Peters is one of the speakers for this conference is telling. She has been very much involved in goddess theology as well as the Re-Imagining movement. Peters' contention is that we need a changing god for our changing times. She sees the idea of an unchanging God being in contradiction to the evil in the world. In Body and Soul Peters is also looking for an image of God that would allow for gay sex and sex without the boundaries of marriage. Beyond sexual issues Peters sees the idea of an unchanging God as obstructive towards the world’s poor.
“Given that tragedy and pain are part of the human experience, a theology of an immovable God is woefully inadequate to help the majority of the world’s people make sense of their lives. For people who experience lives of relative comfort and privilege, this theological construct may sometimes suffice. For those with a steady paycheck, a healthy family, a decent education, and the comfort and power to secure a First World existence, the image of God as all good, all powerful, and unchangeable can contribute to a personal sense of ‘blessedness’ or well-being. It enables an interpretation of life circumstances as ‘blessings’ that God has bestowed. As long as one remains inside that world, this theology may remain adequate.”(164)
Peters sets up a straw person since most orthodox Christians find their comfort in Jesus Christ and his redemption. On the other hand if the Christian finds their comfort in material things they have failed to consider the unchanging God of the Bible who demands total discipleship. A changing god or goddess or even a changing universal force is no answer.
Peters goes on to suggest that women’s life changes make a good model for how God could be perceived. Stating that “If God is imaged as a divine being ‘in control,’ then control itself becomes a desirable moral norm,” Peters sees a model of non-control in such sexual reactions as orgasm and erection. She states:
“A God/ess open to change, vulnerability, and partnership exercises a nontraditional form of power rooted in relationality and reciprocity. These, then, can become the moral ground for ethical behavior in the world, including sexual behavior.” (168)
Notice in all of this there is no mention of Jesus Christ. And yet all of the problems Peters is grappling with are wrapped up in him. As the Christian faces evil in the world, including their own sinful nature, Jesus Christ is the Father’s answer. How can a Christian leave that out of the equation? And how can orthodox believers trust a conference about confessions when at least one of its speakers desires to change God’s revelation of himself. And how can we, in the midst of a denomination that allows leadership among those who reject biblical authority and in many cases the Lordship of Christ, trust these confessions when they do not have a strong focus on confessing Jesus Christ as Lord of the Church.