What Do We Believe?
Core Agape Beliefs
As a community, Agape values “Open Mind, Open Heart, Open Hands” above belief. All are welcome to Agape no matter what you believe! Agape is a community first of belonging- to God, to Jesus, and to each other. From that place, beliefs arise, particularly out of our core centering in God’s unconditional, agape love.
Agape welcomes a diversity of beliefs. Agape does not claim to hold universal truth, or possess all spiritual answers for eternity. We hold on to our beliefs lightly, knowing that religious beliefs have been used to hurt, exclude, and judge others. We value love over belief. We know that as a community and as individuals, we are constantly evolving and expanding, and so are open to learning and growing from points of view different from our own. Through dialogue, prayer, and discernment within diversity, we pray that we might grow and mature, coming to a greater understanding of life, faith, and God.
“Open Mind” refers not only to being open to a diversity of beliefs, but to the observation that many people have felt quite uncomfortable with a number of traditional Christian beliefs. Traditional Christian beliefs about God, Jesus, and life; about ourselves and others; about sexuality and sexual orientation; about sin, salvation, and scripture have not resonated with millions of Christians. At Agape, we seek above all to live out through embodiment and practice the unconditional love of God and the life and teachings of Jesus. We affirm that “God is Still Speaking”, knowing that new revelation and wisdom is constantly springing forth from God’s well of abundant life.
While Agape has a diversity of beliefs, here are some beliefs held by Agape’s founding pastor, Rev. Matt Carriker:
God’s love for us is unconditional. There’s nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make God love us less! God loves us, and there’s nothing we can do about it!
Jesus was fully human and fully divine, and so are we. We just haven’t reached our full divine potential yet :) Jesus said not only that he was the light of the world, but that we are the light of the world. Jesus proclaimed his oneness with God, while also affirming that “ye are Gods.” Jesus said that the things he did, we also would do. Jesus was not the exception to human potentiality, but the model par excellence. Jesus showed us how to live, love, and serve. As we live into the model he set for us, we shed off all that is blocking the light of God from flowing through and as us.
The Bible is inspired but not infallible. In scripture, we find a record and story of God’s interaction with humans. As such, the Bible is infused with divine power, and yet colored with human limitation. At Agape, we read the Bible both devotionally and critically, looking at both culture and context, honoring that God is always inviting us into new growth, and always speaking a new word into our lives.
Jesus is not the only way to salvation. Much of religion views the afterlife as the goal of human existence. At Agape, life here and now- whether in this realm or the next- is the goal of human existence! Salvation is not from a hell God has set up for those who have inaccurate beliefs or incorrect dogma. Hell is our human created condition of fear, violence, and separation from God and one another. God is never separate from us. Through fear we experience life as separation. Salvation is awakening to the true nature of Life and of ourselves. Salvation is moving out of fear and our separate ego, and living into divine interconnectedness and love. This salvific awakening can happen through all religions. At Agape, we value the wisdom, principles, and practices of all religions based in love. Jesus is at the center of our community, because in him we see the full embodiment of a life lived in God’s agape love. All religions point to the invisible, ultimate Reality which is known by many names and descriptions, but cannot be contained by any one name or description.
Humans are not “sinners,” though sin is part of the human condition. The original root of the word sin was an archery term meaning “to miss the mark.” As humans, we constantly miss the mark as we work towards Self-Realization. Yet, our identity is not as sinners, but as Children of God, and as beautiful and beloved Expressions and Individuations of Divinity Itself.
As an Open and Affirming congregation, Agape is a “priesthood of all believers”, which values expansive welcome above all. Agape welcomes into our church community people of every family structure, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. We welcome people of all ages, genders, abilities, races, nationalities, faith backgrounds, and of every economic and social status. Agape affirms that LGBT persons, and ALL persons, are created wonderfully and beautifully by God just as they are.
Humans are created as “Original Blessing” rather than “Original Sin.” All of creation is good. Human sexuality is a gift from God, and a beautiful expression of human love. As with all human gifts, God invites us to use human sexuality wisely. Healthy love of others begins with healthy self-love and acceptance. At Agape, we mourn the ways that human sexuality has been used in destructive, violent, and self-centered ways.
Jesus’ life, love, and death is the utmost example of sacrifice, laying down one’s life for one’s friends. “Sacrificial atonement theory” as articulated in classic Christian theology says that Jesus died for our sins to pay the price of human sinfulness. In traditional Christian atonement theology, humans received a death sentence by God because of the sin of Adam. Jesus paid the price for our sins, satisfying God’s wrath and death sentence through his own death on a cross. Would the God of Agape love, who created humans with free will, sentence us to death for exercising our free will? Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice of love. Jesus saw the human condition of fear and violence, and gave his life non-violently that we might live another way. Jesus modeled the way of nonviolence and unconditional love, even forgiving his persecutors while dying on the cross. Jesus gave his life in order to show us the way to a more abundant life. Jesus willingly underwent death, that we might experience resurrection and new life.
Church, or spiritual community, is a vehicle for making God’s love and justice real, and for living out Jesus’ prayer that “Thy will be done, thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” Through spiritual community, we embody and incarnate the way of Jesus. However, no church is perfect. At Agape, we are “perfectly imperfect!”