Fortress Press, 224 pages
Reviewed by Cyndi Wunder
Our world is intersectional. Increasingly we discover that our neighbor, our friend, our co-worker comes from a significantly different background or a life experience than our own. Yet churches remain largely segregated and homogenous. What would it mean to the life of our churches if we intentionally committed to reflecting the intersectional, diverse and varied experience of those around us? Can we form communities with such great diversity, not only of experience but of expectations?
John Cleghorn, as a cisgender, heterosexual, white man, takes us on a journey with just such a church. That he is cognizant of his own privilege and how this impacts his ability to lead an intentionally diverse and openly welcoming church is a great place to begin. Even as he explains the experience of the church he serves and his call to that church, he stretches out to include representation from other churches that are also on the path to reflect the community outside their door, knowing that no one experience can truly capture or represent this call. The author blends statistical research with story beautifully, engaging the reader while also providing the hard facts that church leaders must have to make informed decisions.
In a world where it is easier to have a book study or hang an “all are welcome” sign, Cleghorn asks readers to live fully into the promise of a truly intersectional church. He addresses the conflict that comes with welcoming divergent groups and their expectations, always with an eye to the deepening and beautifying of our faith life as these varied views intersect, strengthen us and take us deeper along the path Jesus walked. He refuses to allow this discussion to remain simply an intellectual effort, but insists that living fully into this process means allowing the “other” to change who we are, how we live and how we do church together. He openly acknowledges that this can be (and often is) a harrowing process. It’s one that will change those who engage this process, all the while pointing us to a closer walk with Jesus and laying that table at which all are truly welcome, included, loved and cherished.
Cleghorn suggests that the church of the future must be intersectional. He walks us through the harrowing experience of accepting that the church is dying, and takes us out the other side with a reminder that we live a resurrection faith, and we can trust this promise. Cleghorn began this journey as a white, male banker – the epitome of privilege – and walks to the margins with love, kindness and care. He invites us to embrace the discomfort of being transformed and made new via relationship with the “other,” knowing that this change will involve grief and loss as our former ways of being are surrendered. This engaging book invites us into a future that is longing to be born.
Cyndi Wunder, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lodi, Wyoming, is a former drug and alcohol counselor, burlesque fan and equine enthusiast.