Thanks for What Happens When Disagreements Embrace
Thanksgiving 2011 is now written in the Book of Life. As I’ve reflected in the past, one thing I love about this holiday is that we can be together as people without the barriers and perceived differences that take precedence during so many other times of year.
And yet, even in times that we would traditionally be able to come together, like in prayer or on Thanksgiving, there can be deep concerns that doggedly prevent us from doing so. In my church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), decades of strife and passionate disagreement have caused barriers and perceived differences to be extremely difficult to shed.
I invite you to join me in trying a different way. This Thanksgiving, I have pledged to embrace the challenge of our differences, hold close our disagreements, and then see what God can make of us being together.
Two recent examples in the PCUSA for how this can be done inspire me to give thanks for the ongoing efforts to try a new way in my church.
I give thanks for the report and recommendations of the Middle East Peacemaking Issues Committee at the last General Assembly who astounded even themselves at the way they reached a conclusion that everyone felt good about. As Moderator Cindy Bolbach said, it was “Presbyterians at our best” Bringing starkly different concerns and perspectives to what seemed to be an intractable divide, nevertheless, all the people involved respected one another, listened carefully to one another, welcomed new ideas that arose from the discussion. In the end, they forged a unanimous recommendation for the Assembly to vote on.
This is an inspiring example of the way we can embrace one another with our impassioned differences. Through our prayerful deliberations, challenge becomes Grace as the Holy Spirit works to birth an outcome that gives us all joy.
And I give thanks for the table now laid for the whole church to do this regularly in our nurturing of leadership, community-by-community. This year the presbyteries approved standards for ordination that “reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life” as “guided by Scripture and the confessions (from G-2.0104 in the Book of Order).”
What this all means, in simpler language, is that every passionately held understanding of Scripture and Reformed tradition is welcome, respected and valued during the process that sessions, Pastor Nominating Committees, Committees on Preparation or on Ministry and presbyteries go through to discern the calls to Deacons and Ruling Elders and Teaching Elders. This can feel like an overwhelming challenge for us. However, out of these very likely intense discussions, the Holy Spirit will give birth, one by one, to those who will lead us into God’s future for the PCUSA. This prayerful deliberation will be both challenging and Presbyterian at our best.
When our differences embrace, our common submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ opens before us as our firm foundation for being the Body of Christ. Then our joy in both our diversity and our unity will witness to the world our love for Jesus and our love for God’s beautiful creation.
I trust, this Thanksgiving moment, that you and I will give thanks for God’s Grace in this new way opening before us in the PCUSA. And we will joyfully discover together what God has in store for us.
I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!
Reverend Janet Edwards