A BCM Initiative for Learning from One Another While Building Unity
By the Executive of the Board of Church Ministries
You and I are not the same person!
Shocking, I know!
And we both have different lives and opinions! Often times our opinions are shaped by our own experiences, and the experiences of people in our lives.
Some of us have lots of opinions! Some of us share those opinions freely with others, while others keep our opinions more private.
Living and worshiping together can sometimes be great!
And sometimes it can be really hard, even painful.
How do we figure out living and worshiping together when conversation is hard?
How do we love each other when we disagree on difficult topics?
How do we love our sister churches when they are so different from us and we don’t know the people in the pews? Or if they even have pews!
The Board of Church Ministries has been thinking and praying about these questions for many months. In the April 2016 survey, 64.7% of respondents felt that The Messenger is a suitable place to discuss controversial issues. “The opportunity to raise one’s voice” came out ahead of all other possible purposes for The Messenger. Since the survey, we’ve been thinking about how to go about this in a way that builds unity instead of division.
This is not a new question by any means. Nor is there an easy answer. The BCM is not saying that we have one. But we do agree that it is important to think about. As the EMC we have a shared Statement of Faith which binds us together as it outlines our core beliefs. Discussions within and among churches should bring us together and help us to live out this Statement of Faith.
We are a diverse and interesting conference of churches. Each church has gifts to share, as well as areas where more learning and a broader perspective is needed. Living together well is hard work. And being more open to a variety of opinions expressed in The Messenger will also be challenging. With God’s grace we can muddle our way through together, forgiving as we go and assuming each other’s best intentions. This is true both between the BCM and readers and between congregants. Even when opinion and experience differ, we can work to love each other well.
The Messenger isn’t going to change overnight. The conversation on how to best do this is ongoing, and indeed needs to be held more widely. We plan to run articles on how to build unity and how to encourage healthy discussion and discernment. Messenger readers can expect to see a wider variety of perspectives in columns, articles, and letters. You will probably agree with some and disagree with others. You may even want to comment online or write a letter! That would be great! We want to hear from you!
All discussions about topics where we disagree need to first and foremost reflect that we are created in the image of God, we have inherent worth and dignity, and deserve to be treated with respect. We should also seek to understand what others are saying in conversations, working to genuinely listen and not only focus on formulating a rebuttal. The reality is that there are many people who, for various reasons, have not always felt welcome in Christian communities. Through respectful discussion we have an opportunity to change that.
To guide us in these conversations, this note will now appear in the print version of The Messenger and on the website:
Every community will have a diversity of views and opinions, which provides opportunities for us to learn from each other, being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19). Our discussions are inevitably impacted by our own experiences, and the experiences of people in our lives. These discussions should also reflect the reality that some groups and individuals have not always felt welcome in Christian communities. We welcome your responses to articles and topics discussed in The Messenger.
We don’t have this all figured out. Indeed, our struggles in unity show us the “yet becoming” nature of Christ’s kingdom on earth. May God grow our love for one another as we walk with Him.
The executive members of the BCM are chair Kimberly Muehling (Fort Garry), vice chair Cyndy Warkentin (Saturday Night), and secretary Heidi Dirks (Aberdeen).