Spiritual Growth Study Introduction
by GLORY E. DHARMARAJ*
I believe in Jesus by Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño is the story of Christian faith. The underlying theme is how a living faith in Jesus the Christ transforms individuals and communities.
This is a study about “faith seeking understanding,” as St. Anselm, a medieval theologian would say. It is not about knowledge seeking understanding.
The story of faith is an individual as well as collective story in its varied and disparate contexts. This story seeks, struggles and finds clues to the nature of God, and the needs of the neighbor. The centrality of one’s own faith story and the hospitality toward the faith stories of others are key components of this study.
This story has a reference in the birth, death and the resurrection of Jesus. Ms. Carcaño weaves into this story of faith, her own faith story:
• Her grandmother, Sophia, hearing the gospel story from a lay evangelist under a mesquite tree in the vast farmland of southernmost Texas.
• Her father working as a field laborer during World War II to meet the shortage of labor hands.
• Ms. Carcaño herself as a young girl picking cotton, with her mother, on the vast farm to supplement her father’s income.
• The faith of her mother and her grandmother sustaining her throughout.
• Almost faint with exhaustion as a little girl picking cotton, but strengthened by her mother who told her, “My precious daughter, never forget that we can do all things through him who strengthens us.”
• Ms. Carcaño’s grandmother rejoicing over God’s goodness at her deathbed.
• Ms. Carcaño’s own call to ordained ministry while a child.
• As an Episcopal leader, her participation in justice issues on behalf of the human rights of immigrants.
This study is about a story of faith as well as struggle. Into this story of faith and struggle, Ms. Carcaño weaves the story of the church.
The study asks: how do Christians summarize their beliefs today? Another question that lurks in the pages of this book is, “Is theology transferable?” The Gospel tells us, “The Word became flesh. Eugene Peterson in his translation, The Message, would say that the Word became flesh and blood and moved into our neighborhood.
In the context of I believe in Jesus, the Word moves into:
Pacific Islanders’ neighborhoods, and other neighborhoods.
It took almost 20 centuries for many of us to find out we have different neighborhoods, and the same Lord Jesus is embodied and contextualized in different ways in these diverse neighborhoods. It took us almost 20 centuries to find out that theology is not transferable, but theologies are context-specific.
This study is an invitation to offer “intellectual hospitality,” in recognizing and welcoming meanings and truths, struggles and findings, from different faith experiences within the worldwide family of Christ and the household of God.
The author asks, “Whose faith counts?” and answers, “It is the experience of every generation of those who open their hearts to Jesus Christ.”
The journey for the readers is from theology to Christology, and from Christology to Mission. Belief in God and belief in Jesus the Christ leads the church into mission. To know God and experience freedom as whole persons in Jesus Christ is to engage in God’s mission here and around the world.
*Glory E. Dharmaraj is the director of spiritual formation and mission theology for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.