"My Beliefs, My Enduring Principles"

Introduction:

Many years ago, the administrative hierarchy of the religious organization I grew up in, Community of Christ, published a document titled “Enduring Principles”.  The document became the organization’s spiritual charter.  As one of its ministers at the time, I don’t remember being allowed to provide input to the document, perhaps that occurred and I am just unable to remember.  What I do remember is that the document’s Christocentric agenda left me feeling a spiritual numbness.  At the age of 54, the numbness became a fork in the road for me.  I could write an entire book on this and the related journey.  For brevity’s sake, I will simply say that I could not reconcile the document’s agenda with the spiritual and theological diversity God has planted in our world. 

In time, God soothed my distress.  God opened my eyes and heart to a different path for my life through an ecstatic experience on May 26th, 2011.  I have come to call that experience “My God Encounter”.  With expanded clarity and understanding of a calling God planted in my heart at age 19, I found the courage to move on from the Community of Christ in October 2011 and embarked upon a new journey that felt prophetic yet painful and distressing.  

The pain and distress in moving on from Community of Christ was traumatizing to say the least.  Mostly this resulted from growing up in that religious organization and working for it nearly twenty years, both domestically (USA) and internationally.  Ministerially, much of that time was spent serving as a pastor and a bishop but during the last decade of my Community of Christ employment, I also had the opportunity to serve on boards for interfaith and ecumenical associations.  From those board experiences, I fell in love with the wide ranging spiritual diversity God has seeded into our world.  I also felt passionately hopeful that (1) the organization’s “Path of the Disciple” and (2) its movement toward LGBTQ inclusivity and (3) the work of the prophetic “Transformation” agenda would lead the organization to an exciting new witness that the Family of God includes all people – not just some.  Such hope for me began to wither with the organization’s growing attachment to the Christocentric “Enduring Principles”.  The hope I had felt was like a dying ember of a fire no longer fueled to keep it alive.  With hope’s warmth and light gone, numbness set in.

Yet, as mentioned above, God paid me a visit on May 26th, 2011.  During that encounter, God brushed my numbness aside.  The encounter changed my life journey forever and because of it I have not gone quietly away into the night as some in the Community of Christ might have wished. Instead, my leaving the organization was more like a sailing ship anchored safely in harbor which hoisted anchor and shot off cannon announcing its departure as it left harbor.  With sails unfurled, I let the wind of spirit carry me to places and spaces I had never been before --- well beyond the confinements of life in the Community of Christ.  In the years since my ecstatic experience and leaving the Community of Christ, I have been blessed with adventures and happiness beyond my wild dreams!

To date, my new faith journey has helped me refine Community of Christ’s “Enduring Principles” to principles I can now live with, therefore I call them “My Enduring Principles”.  I am grateful to Community of Christ for their “Enduring Principles” as theirs served to stimulate my mind and help me develop my own set of guiding principles.  No doubt some will see areas of substantial similarity for there are things that I still hold in common with Community of Christ.  Our point of divergence however is their worship of Jesus Christ and perpetuation of that worship.

For me, I will always see Jesus as one of the greatest prophets, teachers, and mystics that the world has ever known.  He has personally visited my life.  He is as a spiritual brother whose love is profoundly like that of my brothers in this mortal life.  Like them, I know that Jesus will never leave me nor forsake me.  If however humanity’s sacred writings of encounter with Jesus have factual basis to them, then the writings that speak to me most are when Jesus said not to kneel to him for only God is the one who should receive such adulation, also when Jesus said that there are greater things we shall do than he has done.  The great Mahatmas Gandhi also summed it up well for me when saying he would have become Christian except for one thing, i.e. the claim that Jesus was God’s only begotten son.  Gandhi’s response to this claim was simply that Jesus was no more nor less a child of God than you or me – and this is what I believe and what fits with the Jesus who visits me in my dreams, who utters wisdom through the still small voice, and who daily guides me in the pathways for betterment of the Common Good.  Luckily and with deep gratitude, I now work for a healthcare organization that is accepting and supportive of me – allowing me to do the best work of my life “continuing the healing mission of Jesus Christ.”     

The successes, happiness, and adventures from my new faith journey I must also credit to three other women.  The first is my spiritual director, Dr. Eunice Schroeder, former professor of Interfaith Spirituality at Marylhurst University (Portland, OR) and Founder of Sacred Journey Ministries (Vancouver, WA).  She helped me to see that God has no need for a church, or its leaders, to act as mediators between God and me.  As she put it to me one day, “Sorry pal, you are a mystic and a prophet.  God has chosen to work directly with you.  Do not be afraid however for there are many like you through whom God is reaching out to all humankind all over the planet.”  Through monthly spiritual direction sessions with Dr. Schroeder, that in the beginning occurred weekly in the fall of 2011, I have embraced my journey as a voice crying out from the wilderness.  Feels damn good and damn free, and yes most of the time it seems that I’m the only one talking -- but what the heck, I guess the early Christian ascetics who hung out in the wilderness felt much the same way.

Secondly, I must thank my Jungian psychotherapist who shall remain nameless out of respect for her privacy.  She helped me navigate my recovery out of the trauma-exposure of a sectarian religious upbringing that also involved an abusive childhood growing up in the hands of traumatizing abusive parents.  Individual therapy the past six years also helped me mature beyond my divorce recovery into taking responsibility for myself psychologically and arriving to a place of profoundly enjoying the person I have come to be in my adult life -- even being able to take pleasure in only myself for company.  The moment this awesome awareness came so powerfully to me was at my youngest daughter’s wedding in June 2014.  While sitting alone at a guest table for perhaps twenty minutes or more, I felt overwhelmingly at peace.  I could have spent an eternity within the happiness of those moments.  I don’t think anyone knew how phenomenally peaceful I felt -- at peace with myself, at peace with the world around me, at peace with family and loved ones and friends who had loved me and remained at my side during a very trying and traumatizing period in my life

The last one I must thank is the love of my life -- my Dawn.  The meaning of her full name in her Jamaican culture is, “The Break of Day in the Garden of Roses.”  She has been “The Break of Day” during my life journey since the God Encounter of May 2011.  God heralded Dawn’s coming into my life May 2013 through a dream four months before I ever met her in Lake Oswego, Oregon in September 2013.  As a registered nurse and master's level nurse educator, Dawn has taught me and shown me what true love from one’s life partner feels like, sounds like, looks like -- in all respects that one can possibly think.  As she and I affirm about each other, our first moment of meeting was as if God had reunited two souls who had passionately loved one another in an ancient time long ago. We rejoice daily that we are together once more to share calling and journey God has for our life together.  As the song goes, “Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a love can be, a sweet love story that is older than the sea….”    

Today, I embrace my life journey and I embrace the rich spiritual life that exists between God and me.  May you find for your life the guiding/enduring principles that bless you and bless life around you for such things define the essence, heart, dreams, passions and soul that are yours.  I now know that these individually prophetic impulses are far too precious to be suppressed in service to, or allegiance with, a centralized religious hierarchy, because your principles describe your personality and they reflect the sacredness and uniqueness your life contributes to the Common Good through your primary relationships, your family and extended family, your community and the world in which your gifts and presence are so desperately needed.

There is a work that has been entrusted to us all -- not just some -- and that work is bringing about the Just and Peaceable Reign of God.  All are called according to the gifts of God unto them -- not just some.  As a professional helper the past 40 years, including many of those years as a highly effective licensed and board certified psychotherapist as well as a pastor and bishop, I know how precious your life is to God and to your community.  Never doubt this.

Many religious leaders, faith traditions, and religious organizations want to prescribe for you their notion of what you should think and believe.  If that works for you that’s fine.  If you need help however connecting or reconnecting with the God of your understanding, then I hope you will contact me.  Chances are that God has already broken through into your awareness in some remarkable undeniable way and you simply need help to understand and interpret your own God Encounter.  If that be the case, then please contact me as Dawn and I will gladly help you understand your encounter and help you develop a path and vision for your life that reflects enduring principles of your own that will keep you moving forward in these challenging times.

To inquire further regarding our services and ministry, please use the available contact form to the right.  In most cases, I will contact you within 24 hours.

“My Enduring Principles”

The Foundation: God – Author, Creator, Sustainer, Lover

God -- the Divine Unconditional Lover of you, me, and creation – reveals God’s being and power in phenomenally diverse ways.  Over the billions of years since God brought the Universe into being, our Divine Unconditional Lover has seeded the spiritual and prophetic foundations of mystery, calling, faith, and community in our lives.  This spirituality has been purposed for accomplishing a great work entrusted to you and me -- a work entrusted to us all.  The work entrusted to us is establishing The Just and Peaceable Reign of God.  There have been, and are, many diverse representations of what this great work might look like when accomplished.  Among the many wondrous intoxicating writings portraying this end toward which Humanity strives is Revelations 12:1-17 in the Christian Bible (Inclusive New Testament).  For me, it speaks powerfully of God’s hopes for us:

"Then I saw new heavens and a new earth.  The former heavens and the former earth had passed away, and the sea existed no longer.  I also saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride and groom on their wedding day.  And I heard a loud voice calling from the throne, “Look!  God’s Tabernacle is among humanity!  God will live with them; they will be God’s people, and God will be fully present among them.  The Most High will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  And death, mourning, crying, and pain will be no more, for the old order has fallen.
The One who sat on the throne said, “Look!  I’m making everything new!” and added, “Write this, for what I am saying is trustworthy and true.”  And The One continued, “It is finished.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To those who are thirsty I will give drink freely from the spring of the water of life.  This is the rightful inheritance of the overcomers.  I will be their God and they will be my daughters and sons.”                                                                 

Enduring Principles:
•Grace and Generosity
•Sacredness of Creation
•Continuing Revelation
•Worth of All Persons
•All Are Called
•Responsible Choices & Human Sexuality
•Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)
•Unity in Diversity
•Blessings of Community

Each principle includes statements that help explain its meaning. These statements are not meant to be limiting or comprehensive.  

Grace and Generosity:
•God’s grace is God’s love.  It is generous and unconditional.   Throughout time, Creator and Sustainer and Lover has commissioned prophets, teachers, mystics, clerics, even the meek and the great among us to be messengers and expressions of generosity and unconditional love.   
•Having received such love and generosity from God, we strive to extend generosity to others and graciously receive it from others during times of our need. 
•We offer all we are and have to God’s purposes as revealed through the prophets, teachers, mystics, clerics, and messengers both meek and great. 
•We generously share our witness, resources, ministries, and blessings of our communal life where that is needed locally or globally.

Sacredness of Creation:
•In the beginning, God loved and created and called it all good. 
•Spirit and material, seen and unseen, are related.
•Nature’s power to create or destroy reminds us of our vulnerability in this life. 
•God is still creating to fulfill divine purpose. 
•We join with God as stewards of care and messengers of hope for all creation.

Continuing Revelation:
•Humanity’s spiritual memory and library of diverse sacred writings are an inspired and indispensable witness of human response to, and engagement with, God’s revelation of divine nature and hope for humankind. 
•God graciously reveals divine will today as in the past, inspiring our journey to increase love and understanding toward oneself, each other, and the radically diverse world in which we find ourselves. 
•In humility, individually and in community, we listen to understand God’s will for our lives, our communities, and creation more completely.  Our spiritual listening to one another takes place in many contexts whether that occurs during prayer, the deliberations of nations one with another, the restful solitude beside the river stream, the individual sharing with their counselor, spiritual director, or cleric.  

Worth of All Persons:
•God views all people as having inestimable and equal worth.
•God wants all people to experience wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
•We seek to uphold and restore the worth of all people individually and in community, challenging unjust systems that diminish human worth. 
•We join with the prophets, teachers, messengers, mystics and clerics of all faith traditions in bringing relief and doing good in the lives of the poor, sick, captive, and oppressed. 

All Are Called:
•God graciously and lovingly accepts all of humanity into the Family of God.  There is no “one-true” religion or only one person by whom or through whom an individual becomes a daughter or son of God.
•God gives people gifts and opportunities to do good and to share in God’s purposes.
•Prophets, teachers, messengers, mystics, and clerics of all faith traditions invite humankind to find, experience, and engage with the God of one’s own understanding.
•All are called according to the gifts of God to them, faith traditions and communities exist to help individuals discover their gifts and supportively assist them to live out their unique callings from the God of their own understanding.
•Faith traditions and communities do not harness, prescribe, or shoe-horn people into institutional servitude.  Faith traditions/communities aid people to find unencumbered faith for unencumbered living so individuals can respond passionately and prophetically to their best understanding of God’s calling for them 

Responsible Choices & Human Sexuality:
•God gives humans the ability to make choices about what, whom, and how they will serve. Some people experience conditions that diminish their ability to make choices and therefore our care and support of them is required within the context of family, community, nations, and the world.
•Human choices can contribute to the well-being of others, our world and the Earth.  Human choices can also contribute to evil. 
•There are places and spaces within the human condition needing intervention and redemption because of sinful choices, e.g. human trafficking, organized crime, the illicit drug trade, perpetuation of addictions, abuses by governments, abuses by corporations, abuses by institutions, abuses by faith traditions, abuses by faith communities. 
•Human fantasy informs a person about one's sexuality and related desires, curiosities, and deepest needs. Humankind, in all settings and regards, is therefore called by the Sustainer/Lover God to honor and respect that what informed, competent, consenting and respecting adults chose to enjoy sexually within the privacy of their own lives is solely the concern and responsibility of those individuals involved.  It is not religion’s concern.  It is not government’s concern.  It is not an employer’s concern, etc.  Respect, confidentiality, and sensitivity for all involved in these most private of matters is paramount and must always be maintained.  This view of human sexuality is consistent with an unconditionally loving God who seeks and desires after the entire well-being of every human being.  To put it bluntly, one size or kind of sexuality does not fit all.  A vast continuum exists regarding the expression of adult human sexuality.  Some will prefer their sexuality to be expressed solely within the bonds of traditional marriage of one man and one woman. Others will desire same-sex marriage while some may chose to participate in alternative lifestyles such as asexuality, ethical non-monogamy, polyamory, or yet other choices 
•The foregoing calls and presses each of us to make informed responsible choices within the circumstances of our lives and to also respect and honor the choices others make for the privacy, well-being, and enjoyment in their lives.  In this manner, we exemplify, honor, and contribute to the diverse nature and purposes of God and thereby bring joy to our Sustainer/Lover God.

Pursuit of Peace (Shalom):
•God wants shalom (justice, reconciliation, well-being, wholeness, and peace) for all of creation.
•God’s prophets, teachers, messengers, mystics, clerics, people simple and great, the patient in the counselor’s office or distressed patient awaiting surgery --- all persons both present and past are the embodiment of God and God’s shalom (peace), each reveals the meaning of God’s peace and hope for humankind. 
•The vision of God’s Just and Peaceable Reign on earth is a leavening influence for peaceful community in present times. 
•We courageously and generously share God’s Peace with others.
•Led by our Sustainer and Lover God, we work with God and others to restore peace (shalom) to creation. 
•We celebrate God’s peace wherever it appears or is being pursued by people of good will.

Free of Encumbrance & Diversity:
•We foresee a spiritually and theologically diverse world including communities of messengers, teachers, clerics, mystics and prophets seeking unencumbered faith for unencumbered living. 
•Locally, globally, nationally we foresee offering diverse ministries of pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, and life coaching through diverse communities that help human beings find calling for one’s life from the God of their understanding.

Blessings of Community:
•The blessings of community are expressed best in community life where people become vulnerable to God’s grace and each other. 
•Authentic community includes compassion for and solidarity with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.
•Authentic community upholds the worth of persons while providing healthy alternatives to isolation and conformity. 
•Spiritual community provides nurture and growth opportunities for all people, especially those who cannot fully care for themselves.
•We value our connections with each other and share a strong sense of trust in and belonging with one another—even if we never have met. 
•One of our highest callings as human beings is life actively connected to the God of one’s understanding.  Through that connection your life blesses the lives of others.  We affirm that all are called and ordained to responsibilities and ministries that contribute to the Common Good for our communities and our world. 
•We are called to create communities of God’s peace in our families, faith traditions, across villages, tribes, nations, peoples and throughout all creation.

If the above appeals to you and you need help for your journey and its guiding principles/vision as determined between you and the God of your understanding, then please contact us at your earliest opportunity through use of the contact form available on this website.  In most cases, we will be in touch within 24 hours to discuss our available services and ministries.

May God’s Peace be with you! 

Brad Shumate
Free of Encumbrance
Eugene, Oregon

(Please Note:  "My Enduring Principles"  has been adapted from Community of Christ "Enduring Principles")