by Paul Alexander and Al Tizon
Studies have shown that the average American family eats about the same nine meals in rotation, week after week. We walk the same route to work every day, shop at the same grocery store, tell the same stories (over and over, our kids would say while rolling their eyes). There’s a big part of the human psyche that craves sameness. We find it comfortable, secure, safe. And it doesn’t take two PhDs to know that change can be scary.
But change, especially big changes, can also help us see possibility and promise in new places. Ron Sider helped change the course of the evangelical church through an organization that he founded and ran for 40 years, and his retirement is a big change for PRISM and the Sider Center. But it’s also an opportunity to expand on his legacy as we faithfully strive to live out God’s vision for a healthier, more peaceful, and just world in the 21st century.
So as Ron’s last column was titled “Farewell,” let us start by simply saying “Hello!” Except that Al hails from the Philippines and Paul from broken-promised-”Indian Territory”-turned-Kansas, so it’s more of a “Mabuhay! Osiyo!”
Now we’d like to tell you how we sense God’s leading for the Sider Center and let you know about a few of the ways you can continue to walk with us.
You might have noticed that we’re an “us” and not an “I.” We pressed for the Sider Center to adopt a consensus model of leadership because Ron built a rich and complex entity whose work interweaves scholarship, popularization, and activism. Though singular in vision, the arenas of holistic ministry, public policy, and cultural transformation create a tapestry of ministries that we believe are most effectively woven by a shared leadership approach: teamwork! This model guides egalitarian, inclusive communities of believers, where top-down hierarchy is set aside for the more difficult but ultimately more fruitful process of seeking consensus.
We also see this particular co-leadership model as reflecting the increasingly diverse body and face of evangelicalism. As the United States in general, and evangelicalism in particular, become increasingly multi-ethnic, organizations that embody diversity in their leadership will gain the credibility and skills necessary to engage our globalized world with the whole gospel.
That’s the how. Here’s the what: We’re going to focus on a few issues that we feel called to address, while never losing sight of Jesus. As always, we’ll tackle these issues by producing critical scholarship; popularizing that scholarship so that people on the grassroots level can engage, grapple with, and be transformed by it; and mobilizing ourselves and others to faithful action, even if those actions have social and political consequences.
For instance, we acknowledge that racism, light-skin privilege, and Western cultural captivity are still serious problems that need to be interrogated directly, so we will produce work that challenges racism and helps create a more equitable society. The same is true for human trafficking and sexual justice, immigration reform, the Israeli/Palestinian situation, economic justice, creation care, animal welfare, and other crucial issues (you know, the easy ones). And we’ll tackle such issues in and through the church as we work to strengthen the church’s witness, to ensure that Christians are engaged in local community transformation and structural change as well as in preaching, teaching, and authentic evangelism.
So what kind of crazy people would want to spend all day slogging with us through issues and proposing policies that make everyone a little mad? Well, we have an amazing staff, and they can take the heat. They’ve got practical experience, scholarly know-how, and passion coming out of their pores.
As you read this, you can bet that Ron is either just returning home from fishing or just about to go fishing and that we are not. But that’s okay. We’re pretty excited to get to work. And we hope we’ll see you, July 12th-14th, at our 40th anniversary, Follow.Jesus.2013—it’s going be an amazing weekend, full of conversation and discussion with those who strive to follow Jesus passionately and radically. You can read more about it and save your seat at ESA40.com. We also invite you to come to Impact Holy Land in Philadelphia in December (ImpactHolyLand.org).
A few more ways to walk with us: sign up all your friends for gift subscriptions to PRISM, pray for us, and send us a donation if you feel led to support our efforts to help the church look deeply, live justly, and love radically. Finally, tell us what you think God wants us to work on in the days and months ahead. We only want to do this work with you.
So let’s do it. Or as we say in the Philippines when it’s time to act together, “Sige, tayo na!”