Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Is unity in diversity possible?

The last week and a half has been a difficult one for me and others on campus. I won't go into the sordid details, but the basic issue is how to deal with differing opinions and theological understandings among our campus community. There are a variety of debated issues in the church and in this country - abortion, homosexuality, stem cell research, etc. - but all of the disagreements at some point or another come down to people having different understandings of what the Bible says, how much authority it has, and what it meant by "Christian love." I'm not about to start another debate on this blog (although it is somewhat tempting at times), but the rumbling conversations around campus right now make we wonder how unity will ever be possible in the church universal. Perhaps it's one of those things to be relegated to the kin_dom of God, not really possible in this "fallen" world, but I can't help but hope that someday we'll be able to manage it.

General Conference 2004 in Pittsburgh heard the question of splitting the denomination over homosexuality raised. The idea was defeated and a statement that suggested unity was adopted, but in the end, all the different groups went back to what they do, thinking about what kind of strategy to take up at General Conference 2008 in Dallas. I'm admittedly part of one of those groups that is working on strategy, but it amazes me how much I don't want to see the church split. There are days, of course, where the idea doesn't seem so bad, but as soon as I start thinking about how property and memebrship would theoretically get split, my head starts to hurt and I get a vague idea of how painful divorce must be. Regardless of how we feel about the issues, I know that we are all members of the Body of Christ, brothers and sisters in this spiritual journey and life journey. I fought with my biological brother all the time - still do at times - but that doesn't mean that I love him any less. I have just gotten to the point where I know which things I can and can't dicuss with him. Is that what we have to do in the church? Is that possible? I would say no, it isn't. I believe that the church needs to take stands on issues and be involved in political discussions as a moral voice, but as long as we in the church can't agree on what that voice should be saying, how do we go about it? We have church boards and agencies that speak on behalf of the denomination on many things, but there are always groups in the church that disagree with their statements and actions. Can we afford to keep going about it this way, angering those in our own ranks? Can we afford not to?

Each position on any particular issue feels that they are "right" and others are "wrong" - there never seems to be room for any other possibility. One of the things seminary has gotten into my head is the sense of false dichotomy - it doesn't always have to be "either/or" - sometimes it's "both/and" - or maybe we're ALL wrong. Maybe we can't even begin to see all the possibilities and the issues that we're even arguing over are completely missing the point. I don't know. I'm not God. But while I can admit that, I'm not ready to let go of my opinions and desire for the church to take a stand on things I believe are right. So how do we proceed?

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