Monday, September 20, 2010
The Ability to Disagree and Still Be Brothers and Sisters
Yesterday we had the voters meeting in which the budget for the next year was adopted. I waited for folks to say something but hardly anything was said. It is not because there was nothing to say. It it because this congregation is still unsure how to express differing opinions while remaining churchly and fraternal in their relationships as God's people in this place. So, even though I know there were a few things that some folks wanted to say, they did not say them -- at least within the context of an official meeting.
This makes me sad. I came here a year or so after painful conflict was less resolved than the parties left (including an ELCA mission that grew out of one of the conflicts here). One of the things I saw right away was that it was hard for folks to disagree because they associated disagreement with conflict and hurt. It need not be that way and the fact that it is indicates we have much growing to do as a congregation. People can disagree in Christ about many things without that disagreement bringing an end or changing the character of their relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ.
I expect I will make a few phone calls and see about visiting some of the folks who might have said something but chose not to say it. The point being not to help resolve ruffled feathers but to encourage them to speak their minds (the truth in love as St. Paul tells us), that our relationship does not have to be threatened by some of these disagreements (though there are other disagreements which do shake the very foundations of our life together), and that disagreements expressed in a healthy way are a sign of maturity and strong bonds within the congregation.
Perhaps our Synod is in the same boat. We have disagreements about things that do not threaten our unity and life together but we do not know how to express them in ways that do not threaten our relationships as brothers and sisters in Christ. So we resort to private conversations that sometimes border on character assassination (on both sides) and we make our disputes through publications and internet forums instead of speaking face to face. We also have some disagreements which do threaten our unity and life together and these we have the same trouble talking about openly and honestly.
In the end, it is my hope for this parish as well as for our Synod as a whole that we learn to speak to each other, that we learn to speak honestly to each other, that we are mature enough in Christ to express our disagreements out loud and work through them, and that we learn how to remain brothers and sisters in Christ even when we end up on different sides of the debate. For surely this is the mark of maturity and strong and healthy ties between those who claim as individuals and together to belong to Jesus Christ. In the end, after expressing those disagreements openly, if we can prayerfully put the Church ahead of personal stake, then we have truly done the remarkable...