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Digital technology opens way for pastor to reach wider audience

Tom Sorenson, pastor at Monroe Congregational UCC, found that digital communication technology opened a means for him to reach a wider audience with the message he has preached and taught for eight years there.

After submitting his book, Liberating Christianity: Overcoming Obstacles to Faith in the New Millennium to several publishers, he found his publisher, Wift & Stock, in Eugene, Ore., where he grew up.

Tom Sorenson
The Rev. Tom Sorenson of Monroe UCC publishes a book.

Wift & Stock does publishing on demand, printing copies of the paperback, 208-page book as they are ordered online or by bookstores.

Sees hunger for faith

As pastor of the only progressive church in the community of 16,000 just west of Everett, Sorenson knows from nearly 20 years of practicing law in Seattle that many people hunger for a spirituality of living lives of faith connected with God, but reject Christianity because of the attention media give to rigid, intolerant, narrow churches.

Sorenson said that contrary to the popular assumption that those churches are successful, only 25 percent of people in the Northwest attend any church.

He considers rigid, intolerant, narrow beliefs that condemn people or faiths that differ are counterproductive to spreading Christianity in this century.

In his book, he seeks to articulate “an intellectually responsible faith” that speaks to the many people in or outside churches who reject Christianity, because the only Christianity they know is what he calls “Biblicism” or fundamentalist, judgmental Christianity.

From his study of history, earning a bachelor’s at the University of Oregon in 1970, a doctoral degree in 1977 from the University of Washington, and his work as an attorney after graduating from the University of Oregon Law School  in 1981, he is comfortable with “the reality of relativity.”

Offers alternative perspectives

Monroe UCC, which is an open and affirming congregation of people on spiritual journeys, open to sharing thoughts and welcoming people of different traditions, is a clear alternative to more than 20 other “socially conservative” churches in town, Sorenson said.

He does not assume those churches are successful or popular, because in the Northwest only a small minority of people are drawn to any church.

“There’s also hunger for a spirituality that also moves beyond Marcus Borg’s historical metaphorical approach to reading the Bible and deciding what is historically true,” he said.

Sorenson, who attended University Congregational UCC in Seattle, studied theology at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry after he decided to enter ministry.

He believes that the U.S. culture of materialism reinforces literalism in its assumption that only the physical is real.  Despite that context, he is not afraid to affirm that faith is grounded in experience and perception. 

“Human experience is subjective and so is religious truth.  Everything is relative,” he said.  “Truth is only true if a person experiences it. 

“That makes literal understanding of scripture and religious claims of absolute universal truth impossible,” he asserts.  “I can say what is true for me and I can be willing to respect what is true for others.

“Symbol and myth are the language necessary to communicate the spiritual dimension of reality,” said Sorenson.

Explores obstacles

His book explores obstacles to faith and offers different understanding of the issues they raise. 

He replaces the classical theory of atonement with a theology of the cross. 

He redefines salvation as having to do with this life, not afterlife. 

He  replaces the dominant social conservatism of popular Christianity with Jesus’ teachings of nonviolence, economic justice and radical inclusivity.

In contrast to the message that illness or suffering comes from not enough faith or prayer, Sorenson said that God does not cause illness, suffering or death, but that God’s sustaining caring is “present in all that happens in our lives.”

Book for study groups

In addition to some groups in his church reading it together and his theology informing his preaching, he said that groups in Eagle Harbor UCC at Bainbridge Island and at Prospect UCC in Seattle have used it as a study book.

He appreciates the publish-on-demand option, because the publisher prints only the books that are sold, books that in the mass publishing industry would have no chance to reach print because they might not be big sellers.

For information, call 425-268-0649.


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © April 2010





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