Difficult Discussions

Have you ever known you needed to have a conversation with someone, but really dreaded it? Maybe you were convinced you were on opposite sides of an issue, and were preparing for a long and emotional battle. Or, maybe you just didn’t know how they felt about something, but you had to ask…

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is getting ready to have one of those conversations again. And, I thought you should know about it beforehand. At our General Assembly (where all Disciples of Christ churches are asked to gather once every two years to do the business of the church) we will address many mundane issues and hear many reports of both successful and struggling ministries. But, this year, we are also faced with the issue of homosexuality and welcome within the church.

The resolution before the General Assembly is a “Sense of the Assembly” resolution, which is a somewhat confusing “animal.” The confusion is only compounded by the beliefs and structure of the denomination. Unlike some other denominations very little of what happens at the national level is “binding” on the local congregation. We have always had, and still maintain the authority to do what best fits our context. However, I understand that any vote on a resolution like this will potentially make the national media stage, and so I believe it is essential that you at least know what is happening before you hear about it on the nightly news.

In the last newsletter from the Ozark Lakes Area, Mike Weinman wrote:

Basically, the Assembly does not speak FOR the church, but TO the church. As Disciples it is hard for one voice to speak for the church, beyond our statement that “Jesus is the Christ, the child of God….” As you can see, even that statement appears differently in a variety of places.

As Sharon Watkins stated on the video concerning resolution 1327, in a sense-of-the-assembly resolution “the Assembly speaking to the church in order to spark conversations or action. No congregation is required to change policies in regard to a sense of the assembly resolution.”

Issues of sexuality are difficult subjects for many of us to discuss. We have deeply held beliefs and these issues can (and often do) spark discussions that are less-than-friendly. And, as is the case with politics, intelligent, well-read, thoughtful and godly people can (and often do) come to different conclusions. That is more than just “OK!” I believe it is essential to our growth and maturation as individuals and as a community of faith that we disagree! It is a sign of a healthy community that can embrace one another even though we have wildly different opinions on some very important and sensitive topics.

It is my prayer that as we discuss these sensitive topics we will do so with a posture of grace and humility, that we will remember the instructions of Jesus (especially those about judgment and loving one’s neighbor and enemy…), and that we will have the hard conversations, disagree vehemently and still come to the table, where our faith in the God Who Is, whom we come to know through the life and teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit, unites us in a bond of love and grace that is stronger than any disagreement.

(I would encourage anyone who is interested to visit www.disciples.org to find out more about all of the resolutions before the General Assembly this year.)

Powerful Reminder

The recent rounds of severe weather has been a powerful (and unwelcome) reminder of things left undone. Following the tragic events surrounding the tornado in Joplin, I committed to helping us (as individuals and as a community of faith) become better prepared to respond in the event of such a disaster in our community. Time has passed and the most recent round of tornadoes in Oklahoma puts a powerful exclamation point on the fact that task remains undone.

So, I am asking for your help. I feel strongly about the need to have a plan for how we respond to events of this kind. Although I know we cannot imagine every scenario, I know that having a basic plan will help us adapt to the situation at hand. What I desperately need is someone (or several someones) who share that conviction and are willing to help in putting together a plan, and training for our community.

I am thoroughly convinced that a few motivated individuals can accomplish that which I had hoped to do, but failed. So, if you are interested in helping in this way please let me know (by phone, in person, or by e-mail) and I will work to provide you with the support, supplies and resources you need to help us be better prepared.

I believe this is one way that we can respond to the tragedy in Oklahoma, to make sure that we are prepared should a disaster strike Marshfield. We’ve seen them have to wade through some difficult things, why wouldn’t we do what we can to plan how we will respond in crisis situations?

However, being prepared is (in my opinion) an insufficient response. Is it important? YES! But, we can (and should) do more.

And we are. Every year we support the Week of Compassion offering here at MCC. Those funds are used to respond to crises like this throughout the US and around the world. But, they could always use more. That is why we will be collecting a special offering this coming Sunday (June 9th) to be sent to Week of Compassion to help in the recovery efforts from the Oklahoma tornadoes.

And (if there is interest) I will do some research on how we might be able to physically help with the rebuilding efforts. Right now those plans are still not in place, but I suspect that by the end of the summer, there will be need for people to come and help those affected by the tornado rebuild (in some way) their homes, their community and their lives. Again, please call, e-mail or come and see me and let me know you are interested in putting together some kind of a “mission trip” to work on recovery efforts in Oklahoma.