“So, When You Say Christian…”: An Open Letter from Sister Clare

If you’re reading this, you must be curious about life at Christus House, or have someone in mind who might be interested. Which is wonderful. Where interest is planted, thoughtful questions begin to arise.

For example, many of us hear the word “Christian” and wonder what exactly that means. And rightly so, because it can represent such a wide range of things to different people. I hope this letter can help support greater understanding about where Christus House is situated both theologically and relationally.

Christus House is a mission of Central Lutheran Church, which is part of a Protestant denomination called the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In addition to affirming the ecumenical creeds shared by many mainline Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Confessions identify three intersecting beliefs:

  1. Christ alone insists that the purpose of Scripture is to reveal Jesus Christ and is to be interpreted through the lens of Christ’s death and resurrection for the salvation of all;
  2. Grace alone affirms that we are saved by grace alone, that there is nothing a person can do through their own action that will create a right relationship with God; and
  3. Faith alone affirms that, through the hearing of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit ignites within us faith (trust) in God.

I share this brief orientation because Central Lutheran Church serves Christus House – knowing a little bit about Lutherans and the ELCA is probably savvy. That said, our residents represent a range of Christian traditions and expressions, as well as individuals who do not formally affiliate with a religious community. We ask our residents to commit with sincerity to a year of exploration of Christian faith and life; we do not expect agreement within the community about theological or social issues, and we do not desire for any resident a faith identity that isn’t life-giving for them. Our mission is to equip and empower residents in their unique spiritual lives as they mature in relationship with the divine, one another, and the world.

And so, in keeping with our baptismal call to the way of Christ, Central Lutheran Church expects all residents to make the following commitments for a safe and affirming community:

  • We welcome and celebrate residents represented on the LGBTQA(lphabet) spectrum of identity. To this end, we implement annual community training to ensure all residents have access to a shared vocabulary and are equipped to co-create an informed and respectful environment. Christus House, responding to the evolving needs of our residents, is undergoing renovations this summer to facilitate the removal of all sex- or gender-based designations from our facility.
  • We are committed to a broad and deep exploration of Christian tradition, including the suppressed voices womanist, mujerista, queer, and liberation theologians. We believe expansive access more justly and richly equips us in our faith journeys and lives of discipleship.
  • We affirm the intrinsic value and validity of other wisdom traditions, not limited to but including Judaism and Islam as our “sibling” faiths from the root of Abraham. Exploration of Christian faith and life in this community includes resistance and challenge to the climate of fear, hate, and violence that harms any of God’s beloved people.

The choice to live in intentional community means you’re signing on for full participation and mutual accountability to life with one another. Central Lutheran Church policies promote an environment that is safe, aligned with legal ordinances, and hygienic; to create space for moral and ethical development in our residents, we do not provide a “moral code” for conduct. The community’s shared commitments within the bounds above (i.e. safe, legal, hygienic) are established by the residents annually at the fall retreat. We in turn will support your covenant together with community structure, communication and boundary training, and compassionate mediation as needed when conflict can’t be resolved within the community.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, I offer these points as a starting place for you to discern what’s right for you. For some, it will be enough to decide whether Christus House is the fit you were hoping for – for others, you’ll want to talk more. That’s great, and I welcome the conversation!

In either case, thank you for taking the time to learn about our community.

In peace,

Sister Clare Josef-Maier
Minister to Christus House & Young Adults
Central Lutheran Church
(541) 345-0395
sisterclare@welcometocentral.org

 

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