Hoping to inject a different Christian perspective into the cultural conversation, a group of Billings clergy and lay people have come together to produce a six-episode TV show.
“Another Voice” is both the name of the group and the show that is airing every other Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on Community 7 Television. The show features the Revs. Rob Kirby, Stacey Siebrasse, Steve Gordon and Marc Stewart.
Kirby is Methodist minister and campus pastor at Montana State University Billings; Siebrasse is pastor of First English Lutheran Church; Gordon is pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church; and Stewart is Montana-Northern Wyoming conference minister for the United Church of Christ.
All belong to mainline denominations, Siebrasse said in an interview with Kirby. In their churches they practice liturgies and traditions that go back two millennia, but their focus is forward-looking.
“You turn on radio or TV and I think people get one narrow understanding of what Christianity is,” Siebrasse said. “And so what we wanted to do was offer a more progressive viewpoint.”
What Christianity isn’t — or shouldn’t be — Kirby added, is exclusionary.
“We’re trying to make those boundaries less rigid, and sometimes we get accused of not taking Scriptures seriously,” he said. “Our response is we look at Jesus and see what he did with the church during his lifetime.”
Jesus expanded boundaries dramatically “in ways that couldn’t have been imagined by established Jewish authorities at the time,” Kirby said.
So much of Scripture speaks about how Christians are to love their neighbors and not to let fear drive actions, such as putting up walls or banning entire groups of people, Siebrasse said. That sentiment often came up in the recent presidential campaign, in which a segment of Christians who supported Donald Trump embraced his views on immigrants and refugees.
“We’re trying to say there are Christians who don’t think that way and to welcome people into that dialogue,” she said.
The group Another Voice came together last spring, Kirby said. It consists of the four pastors, along with the Rev. Ken Crouch, Walt Gulick and Scott and Kris Prinzing.
Members started looking for ways to get their message out regarding a different point of view, Kirby said.
“This fall we started saying, 'How do we begin to counter these very negative Christian voices that are so often portrayed in the media?'” he said. “About exclusion, about rules and regulations only.”
The first show, which aired Sunday, focused on “What is Progressive Christianity.” At its root, the term progressive “means you’re building upon something, not throwing something out,” Kirby said.
For instance, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount didn’t throw away the words of the Old Testament prophets, who called for an eye for an eye, Kirby said. Instead Jesus instructed his followers who found themselves in a dispute to turn the other cheek.
A progressive faith, in addition to embracing Christianity’s ancient roots, focuses on social justice, caring for both the people God created and the Earth, Siebrasse said. In the same way that Paul’s mission was to include Gentiles, who were being excluded from the church, the church today needs to embrace those who feel rejected, including the LGBTQ community.
“God is still speaking to us today, that people who are being excluded need to be welcomed in,” she said.