Mark Lau Branson's Class Blog

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Archive for April, 2009

City & Empire & Church

Posted by Mark Lau Branson on April 30, 2009

Craig Wong’s article provides an insightful sociological and historical analysis of his city, San Francisco. He is especially interested in how this framework is important if a church is to understand its own identity and agency. He is on staff of a church in the Mission District, Grace Fellowship Community Church. They are always asking two questions: What does it mean to be the church? What does it mean to be the church in San Francisco?  Wong writes, “Living in the most politically liberal metropolitan city in America has forced our congregation to look more closely at the substance of empire, and how the gospel raises a different set of questions than that of our fellow San Franciscans.” Even though the article was written during the previous presidency, churches in the US still find ourselves living within an empire that lives out basic assumptions about our interests, our economic priorities, and our military options. Among Wong’s conclusions: “Therefore, if our ministry in San Francisco is to have a truly salvific dimension it must expose the ’empty deceit of human traditions’ that disguise themselves as universal ideals promising personal happiness. Our mission calls for a confidence in the gospel that is willing to judge the American experiment as ‘an adventure that held the seeds of its own destruction within itself…its inadequate vision of human freedom [resulting in] self-centeredness, loneliness, superficiality, and harried consumerism’ (Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon). Given such judgement, we can regard San Francisco not merely as a woeful urban planning nightmare, but rather, as a window to the human futility of a dying order.” He believes their church’s San Francisco neighbors need to see in the church’s life a clarity about what the gospel looks like. “Were we to be faithful to the gospel, the watching world will see a peculiar people living under a rule that is foreign and offensive to the empire. A resistance group forsaking personal freedom and the “American Dream” to knit their lives together in Christian love and service.”


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