Taking the Call to be a Prophetic People Seriously: My Struggles & Experiments

Karyn Wingard-Manuel

Karyn Wingard Manuel

Like many of you, the words, “You are called to be a prophetic people,” have become formative lexicon in my teenage and young adult experience within the church. I’ve read it in Herald articles, heard it in sermons, and even sensed these words as a personal calling. Yet I continue to struggle with the call to be prophetic and what answering the call means for me in a day-to-day context.

After several years of rumination, I’ve come to at least two conclusions. Answering a call to become a prophetic people is 1) courageous and 2) political. Jesus risked his comfort and safety as he spoke out against the injustices of the political, social, and economic systems to make way for the peaceable kingdom. He worked to reduce poverty, advocate for a fair tax code, claim the criminal justice system unjust, support gender and ethnic equality, and non-violently resist oppressive regimes. Simply put, the Gospels portrayed Jesus as a political activist in a time and place it was not safe to be one.

My interpretation of the prophetic call has led me to work professionally and spiritually for the inherent worth of all people despite their race, gender, sexual orientation, or legal status, for the prevention of war at all costs, and for spiritual and simple living in the midst of a morally bankrupt economy. Community of Christ has made similar political and courageous decisions when delegates at World Conferences voted on church resolutions concerning immigration, capital punishment, and other human rights. I believe that each time people make a decision to treat every human being as a child of God (in spite of personal risk to their comfort and safety,) they are answering the call to be prophetic.

Still, I think we all struggle with how to be prophetic people within community – especially within a congregation. Many don’t agree with me that politics and faith are interlinked and I hesitate to make specific statements about this prophetic call from the “pulpit.” I lose patience too quickly with people who don’t share my views and I secretly worry that if the congregation gets too involved in political issues, members of the church will be torn apart from one another, and in the end will become less a community built on spiritual values but one built on political ideologies. This is where the struggle comes in. How does a community answer its call to become prophetic and still remain a community that upholds loving relationships with people who hold varying definitions on what it means to follow Christ and answer the call to be a prophetic people?

As always, we must look to the Gospels and glean from Jesus’ example in order to take on this conundrum. So far I’ve gathered that the right combination of prophetic activism and pastoral relationship takes courage, compassion, and a strong commitment to the Divine calling. A calling that brings us out of fear and a need for absolutes and into a relationship with the world that is both prophetic and pastoral.

I will continue to struggle with our call to become a prophetic people. In the meantime, the question in my mind comes down to this. How can we express our love for this world and for others in the most authentic way possible? This question isn’t meant to be easy, rather the basis for daily experiments.

Karyn is an intern with Community of Christ, Outreach International, and Friends Committee on National Legislation (a Quaker peace lobby) in Washington, DC. She received her Masters in theology and social justice at Iliff, School of Theology and is also a graduate of Graceland University.

What’s Your Perspective?:
What are your thoughts about the relationship between faith and political
action in Community of Christ?

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