Welcome to The Purple Zone! In a society increasingly polarized and averse to respectful dialogue, our churches reflect the wide range of viewpoints across the Red/Blue divide that can entangle pastors and parishioners within divisive controversy. And yet the prophetic and Gospel witness of the Bible compels us to address contemporary justice issues. There is much at stake: incredible amounts of wealth, questions of power and equality, the ecological conditions that support life itself, and the very real persons affected by these issues all have a stake in our conversations, decisions, policies and actions. How do we listen to each other across hostile divides of red/blue politics, race, class, gender and sexuality, geography, culture, and religion? How is God speaking to us through these difficult conversations?
I am the Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade, your guide in The Purple Zone. A seminary professor of preaching and worship, a researcher exploring how pastors handle controversial issues, and an ELCA ordained clergyperson with 16 years of experience in parish ministry in diverse cultures and contexts, I am exploring ways that pastors can preach and do ministry that is true to their gospel calling, while recognizing the many risks involved in courageous preaching and ministry. How can we be both pastoral and prophetic? This is one of the driving questions of my work. The challenge of addressing controversial justice issues from the pulpit is fraught with risks, but also offers opportunities for proclaiming the gospel and building community in profound and contextual ways.
This work is also for Christians in congregations looking to develop strategies for initiating and navigating conversations around “hot topics” while maintaining relationships and emphasizing God’s creative, hope-filled and redeeming activity in our world. I am particularly interested in exploring how the process of deliberative dialogue can be useful for moving us beyond “fake news” (aka “viral deception”) and “alternative facts” to a place where we can respect each other’s humanity while moving toward reconciliation and rebuilding, while – most importantly – protecting those most vulnerable in these conversations.
This blog will offer articles informed by my research in which I surveyed 1200 Mainline Protestant pastors in the United States about how they are approaching controversial justice issues in the pulpit. I will also be sharing reflections based on my experiences listening to pastors, parishioners and ecclesial leaders, as well as book reviews, lists of resources, and any other tips and tactics to help us move and minister within The Purple Zone.
Visit https://www.thepurplezone.net/ to learn more. And stay tuned for more posts!