Eric Elnes with Anna Carter Florence Recap
Image Credit: Grand-Mont by Romary via Wikimedia Commons
Yesterday at Westminster Presbyterian, Eric Elnes from Darkwood Brew and Anna Carter Florence, Professor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary, shared insights about preaching and listening in a world of many perspectives and divisive lines.
To begin the session, Eric told a few stories about his time with CrossWalk America, when he and a few other progressive Christians made their way from Phoenix, AZ to Washington D.C. in hopes of spreading an inclusive and loving message, as well as listening deeply to others. One comment from this journey stood out in particular – as the group visited a fundamentalist church in Arizona, the pastor told Eric, “At the foot of the cross it’s all common ground.” This signifies that no matter how different two Christians may be, there is always a connection to be found, and this connection ought to be lived into.
Shortly after these stories, Anna joined in on the conversation. She mentioned the growing diversity of denominations represented at Columbia Theological Seminary, and what a gift it is to “look for what’s truthful, not right” in a text with this body of students. As she teaches classes in preaching, she reminds her students that “like the church, you don’t get to choose who’s [in your preaching group]”, and so the students must preach to each other rather than some hypothetical context. She also said they must learn to love those to whom they are preaching and remember that the subject of the text is not them – “the subject is the Christ to whom the text points.”
In all of this, the main themes of their conversation were clear: the church, in its many and varied expressions, needs to care for and listen attentively to one another, seeking to come together at “the base of the cross” rather than fight dead-end arguments over what constitutes orthodox doctrine. At the end of the day, as Eric so adeptly put it, “Jesus can absolutely confound us all,” as even progressives and fundamentalists held hands singing together in praise of their God.