“New Channels for Love”

The reign of God, the reign of the sustaining, commanding, transforming reality, is the reign of love, a love that fulfills and goes beyond justice, a love that “cares” for the fullest personal good of all. This love is not something that is ultimately created by us or that is even at our disposal. It seizes us and transforms us, bringing us into a new kind of community that provides new channels for love.

James Luther Adams, “A Faith for the Free,” The Essential James Luther Adams

Advertisements

The voluntary association so far from serving as an instrument of freedom may end in becoming a new instrument of tyranny and conformism…

We can observe the iron law of oligarchy as it operates in the great pressure groups of today. A few years ago some sociologists studied the centralized bureaucracy of the American Medical Association. They found a goodly number of physicians who said that they felt that the A. M. A. through its policies was damaging the image of the physician in the United States today. On being asked why they did not do something to change the structure and the policies of the bureaucracy, some of them gave the answer, “I trained to be a doctor, and I want to practice medicine. In order to break the bureaucracy of the A. M.A., I and many of my colleagues would have to spend much more time than we can afford.”
It is a striking fact that the large business corporation functions by reducing the role of the shareholder. The average small shareholder surrenders his power by signing a proxy to the representative of the managers. This sort of phenomenon belongs to the pathology of associations, and we could find ample illustration of it by examining colleges and churches.
James Luther Adams, “The Indispensable Discipline of Social Responsibility,” Voluntary Associations

Everyone recognizes the importance of research.

But an “attitude” is in itself not enough. Research within an organization is not likely to be undertaken and research findings already available will not be made use of if the task is left to chance or is only fitfully attempted. Leaving the matter to chance generally turns out to be postponement. One is reminded of Augustine’s prayer, “O God, make me chaste, but not yet!”
James Luther Adams, “Voluntary Associations in Search of Identity,” Voluntary Associations

“radical criticism of both goals and means, of both goals and performance”

Curiously enough, even organizations that initially have viewed themselves as pitted against the establishment develop their own establishment-mentality. The historian of religion is amply familiar with this reversal of goals in religious organizations. For this reason he stresses the indispensability of the prophetic function of authentic religion, the function of exercising radical criticism of social structures and radical criticism of both goals and means, of both goals and performance.
James Luther Adams, “Voluntary Associations in Search of Identity,” Voluntary Associations

Ordination Prayer

In the hallowed place of this congregation we acknowledge the gifts of nature and of grace, the unearned heritage of the freedom to believe and also the freedom to raise unsettling questions. We acknowledge that war and exploitation, arrogance and intolerance, apathy and complacency, the poverty and homelessness around us, are a part of us, that we in our suburban captivity cannot wash our hands in soothing innocency. We remain aware of our responsibility for the form and import of religious education, of our responsibility to encourage critical appreciation of our tradition and of other faiths and traditions. We acknowledge that mere conformity can lead to deformity, also that thoughtless nonconformity is itself a deformity.

“An Ordination Prayer,” An Examined Faith  Social Context and Religious Commitment

How shall we judge of our churches

 if we apply the tests suggested by the elements of radical laicism? And how shall we evaluate our work as ministers? Must we not as clergy emphatically include the test of our capacity to elicit radical laicism? The test bears upon the ministry of the clergy and the laity not only in church life but also in the democratic society. Ultimately, the test is a group test. “By their groups shall ye know them…
James Luther Adams, “Some Notes on the Ministry of the Clergy and Laity,” Voluntary Associations

The vitality and effectiveness of our churches

 has always depended and continues to depend upon the quality of the laity as well as of the clergy. This is particularly true among us, for we know that the health of the church is displayed not only when the laity is gathered on Sunday but also when they are “scattered” in their various walks of life and in the cadres of community life.
James Luther Adams, “Some Notes on the Ministry of the Clergy and Laity,” Voluntary Associations

This radical laicism demanded congregational polity,

the autonomy of the local church. What a radical dispersion of power all of these ingredients involved — power here being defined as the capacity to participate in the shaping of decision. But what a heavy burden of responsibility this radical laicism places upon both clergy and laity. The burden is particularly demanding in our mass society with its many norms, with its personalization, with its engines of propaganda, and with its pressure for conformity.
James Luther Adams, “Some Notes on the Ministry of the Clergy and Laity,” Voluntary Associations

Radical laicism in our heritage

has stressed the idea that every man must do his own believing and that he is responsible for this believing: he may not as it were believe vicariously. Explicit faith requires religious literacy for both the laity and the clergy.
James Luther Adams, “Some Notes on the Ministry of the Clergy and Laity,” Voluntary Associations