An interview with Joanne Howell.
You and your small group from your former church, International Church of Christ, were looking for a new church a few years ago. Why did you all decide on Forefront?
We felt welcomed. No one asked didn’t ask us, “What are your beliefs?” in order make sure that we could fit with them. I certainly did a lot of praying and I felt that this was the answer to prayer. Yeah, it didn’t fit with box of what we knew, but it was an opportunity to learn without the sense that you had to accept the church’s way of looking at things. It was also important to me that our children liked this church—I didn’t want to have to wake them up on Sunday morning and push them to come.
But it wasn’t a completely comfortable transition?
It was when we had a baptism of someone who was gay. She told her life-story on stage. Frankly, it’s still something that’s hard for me. I wrestle with both sides of the argument. The way that I’ve resolved it is that I understand both point of views. I feel unsure about what I believe, but I don’t feel as compelled as I did earlier to have the right answer. It’s something that you can have a different opinion on.
Why don't you feel so compelled to have the right answers?
I come from a background where it’s “Thus saith the Lord” [laughs] If the Bible says it, then it’s true. One of the things that I’ve really loved and embraced here at Forefront is a new understanding of how to approach Scripture. It really doesn’t intellectually make sense to just lift it all up and say, "If it’s there, it’s literally true."
You work as a lawyer, right? So did you compartmentalize how you mentally approach your professional work versus the Bible?
I absolutely did. It’s not even rational. I think, subconsciously, that’s always been a question mark and this church has brought that question to the forefront.
What keeps you here at Forefront Brooklyn?
We have looked around at different churches, and frankly I came to the decision that this is what feel better for me than any place else — at least I can continue to grow as a Christian. It feels like other churches have very clear doctrines and I guess I’m not as comfortable with that anymore. I now realize I need some room to question and figure things out.
I feel my experience with God is what keeps me here. It doesn’t feel like it’s in danger because my understanding of Scripture changes. Before it was, “It’s gotta be exactly what you see the bible and if you get it wrong, you can’t go to heaven.”
My connection with God feels more honest and genuine. Now it includes my questions. Before I had to lock out anything that didn’t fit. I couldn’t process those parts.
This is a young church. There are still some things we feel are lacking in Forefront, and I expect that as time goes on, various things will get addressed -- they are already starting to be.