[Sticky] Light of the Spirit FAQ
Below are some Frequently Asked Questions you might want responses to. We'll expand this post as we continue our journey. Be aware that these are short answers. We'll treat many of these subjects at length in later posts.
Is this a church or is this a message board?
It’s both! Light of the Spirit is a fully-functional, authorized branch of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Boise, ID. Pastor Dave is a called and ordained pastor with a four-year seminary education and a couple of decades of experience in brick-and-mortar churches. The sacraments we offer are authentic. The sermons are the same or similar to those you’d see in a brick-and-mortar church. Calling Light of the Spirit “your church” is fine. That’s what it is!
You don’t have to designate it that way if you’re not comfortable with it. You can also participate in discussion and enjoy the presentations without ever “joining”. You do not have to leave your brick-and-mortar church to “belong” to Light of the Spirit.
Traditional churches like to define themselves by static states. “Are you a member or not???” This implies a bunch of biases that we don’t hold. Light of the Spirit values the interaction in between all of its participants, and in between participants and the world. We’re not static, but dynamic! Definitions of membership can be too.
Whether you need the community to be your church or just a wonderful place to talk, we’re here for it.
Are the Boards Moderated?
We do moderate discussions at Light of the Spirit. Long experience online shows us that this is necessary. Online discussion is never a real democracy, with all participants sharing power equally. Those who are loudest and most abrasive, tend to dominate conversations, often at the expense of others.
We absolutely acknowledge the power inherent in speaking in an online forum. We’re happy to give the microphone to you so you can explore, ask questions, and interact! We ask that you use that power responsibly, caring for your fellow participants and having compassion for those who are vulnerable. When comments don’t meet that standard, we delete them. People who derail conversation instead of adding to it will be banned.
Every community says this in theory, but we take it seriously. We have an advantage over most. We don’t care about being popular or huge, selling ads or making money. This really is about faithful conversation between fellow children of God. We’d rather have a dozen people doing that well (and growing from there) than hundreds of people participating in awfulness.
Online moderation is always difficult because there are so many gray areas. We ask for grace when making those decisions; not everyone will agree with them. But we will err on the side of protecting the potentially vulnerable among us.
See our short list of behaviors not allowed at Light of the Spirit for more details.
What if I’ve been hurt by churches before?
Our first response is an apology. Churches have, and continue to, hurt people in the name of God. This is wrong. We stand against it. To the extent that we, as people of God, have participated in that harm, we need to apologize. We do, without excuse or qualification.
In order to participate, you’re going to need to know why Light of the Spirit is different. We’ll offer two points.
- Our theology explicitly says that none of us are perfect, but all of us are beloved by God. We hope that the things you find here help you grow in faith, but we don’t insist that you grow in a particular way that we determine. You don’t have to believe like we do in order to be faithful. There’s no agenda to indoctrinate you into a specific moral code or cause. We presume the outlook of everyone here will be really beautiful and slightly flawed. No amount of control or manipulation will change that. We renounce both.
- We explicitly speak against abusive behavior, explicitly standing with its victims and survivors. This is true in all ways from domestic violence and relationship abuse to political/societal abuse and religious abuse. It’s wrong. One-sided control is the opposite of faith, not a means to it.
How do you stand on LGBTQ+ issues?
For us, this issue is settled. LGTBQ+ children of God are children of God, full stop.
LGTBQ+ orientation is a gift from God with the same potential power and pitfalls that all gifts of identity have. This community is overjoyed to hear and grow from the perspectives of LGTBQ+ participants…perspectives undervalued in traditional churches, to say the least. This community condemns injustice in all its forms, including religious persecution which LGTBQ+ have experienced.
As individual people we all fall short of perfection. We are also all loved by a God who is bigger than our shortcomings. That is our central story. It does not change based on our orientation or any characteristic we bring to the table.
We are happy to host genuine discussions about orientation and faith. If anyone has questions or wants to know the deeper theology behind this affirmation, they can talk to Pastor Dave directly. Light of the Spirit will not host discussions that continually question the validity of the relationship between God and LGTBQ+ people, nor will we become a community wherein LGBTQ+ people have to justify their existence or their connection to the divine.
Am I going to be asked to give money?
Not explicitly, no. If you’re worried about the church being an outer shell, disguising a drive for funds and support underneath, you can exhale.
We do accept offerings via our donation page because the people who create the material here have salaries and like to eat every once in a while. That said, we limit the amount you give to us directly because we want to avoid the appearance of being money-driven or controlled by a select few members with resources. We appreciate thoughtful gifts, but we won’t accept more than $50 per month from any person, $100 per household. (For reference, that’s pretty small compared to many church donations.) If you want to give more, we ask that you take the excess and donate it to charities and non-profits doing wonderful work in your local area.
The salaries of Light of the Spirit staff leaders are paid by its brick-and-mortar parent church, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran. Those salaries are not dependent on generating revenue from Light of the Spirit. It is a freely-shared community of faith.
I come from an American Evangelical background. What can I expect?
We have a page dedicated to the basic differences between what we affirm (what we believe scripture says) and what you’ve been taught faith is. In a nutshell:
- The basic longing for faith and community you experienced in American evangelicalism was valid and good. The ways in which the church used those things may or may not have been.
- We center around the Bible and draw inspiration from its words. We’re not making things up or advancing our own agenda. We just hold open the possibility that Scripture says different things than you’ve been taught it says.
- We absolutely reject the power structure that advances one person as central to the community while everyone else must follow him or be “unfaithful”.
- We also reject any faith construct that divides the world into insiders and outsiders, suggesting we’re on the inside with God because of our superior behavior, knowledge, or morals.
- We ask you to consider that many of the things you were taught about sin and redemption might have been skewed, advantaging the speaker over the rest of the world rather than telling a faithful story. Unpacking all of that will take a while.
- For starters, maybe consider that “sin” might not be what you do, but how it’s done and its effect on the world. (In this way, it’s absolutely possible for church itself to be sinful if its effect on the world is bad or abusive.) Similarly, redemption doesn’t come because we believe correctly, confess well, or change our ways perfectly, but because we are loved even in the midst of our imperfections.
- If the world is divided into two groups, those groups are not defined as “liberal and conservative” or “believer versus non-believer”. The dividing lines in scripture lie much more strongly between those who show compassion towards others in all they do and those who only want to advantage themselves. None of us stand wholly on one side of that line or the other, but if you’re going to make a mistake, err on the side of compassion.