Charles Henry Twain lived during the latter part of the seventeenth century, and was a zealous and distinguished missionary. He converted sixteen thousand South Sea islanders, and taught them that a dog-tooth necklace and a pair of spectacles was not enough clothing to come to divine service in. His poor flock loved him very, very dearly; and when his funeral was over, they got up in a body (and came out of the restaurant) with tears in their eyes, and saying, one to another, that he was a good tender missionary, and they wished they had some more of him.
– A Burlesque Autobiography

In contextual education today we began class with a discussion of Oscar Romero and used that as a jumping-off point to discuss the question:

“Can the Church be neutral?”

We began this discussion with the question of poverty and the poor. My own opinion about this and other issues that is that the responsibility of the church–of each individual Christian–is to proclaim the Gospel. The problem with some liberation theologies is that they think there has to be an active alteration of theology and the gospel in order to effect change. On the contrary, true liberation theology is the recognition that where there is injustice in the world it is essentially opposed to the Gospel, and when tension exists between the World and the proclamation of the Gospel, it is because of the movement of the World and the Church, the people of God, must be fundamentally and intrinsically opposed to the World in those areas. Its all part of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

Another of my classmates raised the issue of a rescue mission he had worked at, which required that those who came for supper first attend chapel {the line for the meal began on the other side of the chapel door}. The issue that arose from this policy was that the former parish of my classmate had withdrawn thier support from the ministry because of this policy; my classmate admitted that he was torn by this decision because he believes that it is the purpose of the Church to proclaim the Gospel, yet he isn’t necessarily comfortable with the policy of making chapel a pre-requisite for food. This tension is similar to the tension of, and criticism directed at, missionaries and the so-called “rice Christians.”

   This reminded me of the volunteer work I did at ABCCM a few years ago, during which I learned a bit about their work with homeless addicts. They had a policy at the time–I don’t know if it is still in place–that anyone living in the shelter had to be actively looking for a job, participating in rehab etc… as part of thier rehab they were expected to participate in worship. The view of the program was that the worship was intrinsic to the rehab and inseparable from it. And that’s the rub… for some, it looks as though Christians are laying out “poll taxes” or something of the like, that the people they are attempting to minister to must pay–but to Christians, the proclamation of the Gospel is of basic importance, indeed, without the Gospel, no lasting benefit can be achieved.