GA 2010: Gustav Niebuhr speaks at Covenant Network gathering

MINNEAPOLIS – Tolerance is basically a synonym for forbearance – and not nearly as strong as the idea of engaging with those whose views differ from ours, said R. Gustav Niebuhr, a religion journalist and now an associate professor of religion and the media at Syracuse University.

He also is the author of Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America.

Speaking to a lunch gathering today (July 5) sponsored by the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Niebuhr argued for the value of engagement, which he described as much more demanding approach than tolerance, but also more rewarding. Engagement means taking others seriously enough to listen to their views, to hear what they have to say, and to speak to them about one’s own convictions, Niebuhr said. It means, he added, being authentic.

The Covenant Network is committed to “creating a climate in the church of respectful engagement,” while continuing to push for a change in the ordination standards of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to allow sexually active gays and lesbians to be ordained, said Deborah Block, a pastor from Milwaukee and a Covenant Network co-moderator.

Among the network’s other priorities at this assembly: provide a clear word to congregations and pastors as to how to minister effectively to all types of families, recognizing that some states now permit same-gender marriage, while the PC(USA) defines Christian marriage as being between one man and one woman.