Friday, November 6, 2009

More Thoughts on Conflict


Yesterday, I wrote about the ways that conflict can help us in our transformation. Our church is embroiled in a bit of a conflict right now. I attend a Methodist church and we tend to be a very liberal church in a very liberal conference. But that doesn’t mean that everyone in our church holds the same view points by any means. Some how or another, though, we have always been a church that was able to hold all of those varying viewpoints in one vessel. There is a lot of loving grace toward each other in our church.

Our church has determined to become a Reconciling Congregation, which advocates for FULL participation for ALL people in the life of the church. The primary focus of the ministry is the inclusion of Gays, Lesbians and Transgendered peoples. Therefore, in the church right now, we have a group that has an agenda and they want the support of the congregation for that agenda. However, not all support the agenda.

Recently, a team of people at our church had volunteered to help with a prison ministry called Kairos which seeks to share the true and unconditional love of God with people in prison. However, when the local organization realized that one of the people from St. John was lesbian, she was told that she could not participate. The rest of the team resigned in order to stand in solidarity with this beautiful and valuable member of our community. At church on Sunday night our pastor said that we were not finished with this matter.

So, do we pursue conflict with our Christian brothers and sisters? Do we even pursue a route of conflict within our own church as we work toward full acceptance of EVERY child of God? The answer to me is clearly, yes. But it will be a challenge for all of our community and our leadership to navigate this lovingly and in ways that are truly reconciling in the midst of conflict.

7 comments:

lucy said...

whew! peace be with you in the midst of this conflict. why does it seem that some of the most challenging conflicts come from within the church? i know challenges are everywhere, but we who are called to LOVE should know better, shouldn't we?

Tess said...

I echo Lucy, peace be with you in this conflict.
Perhaps we need to look at what Jesus did and said. He did not shy away from conflict, he challenged people to think and to love, including his own disciples. To move, as we would say today, out of their comfort zones.

Rebecca Johnson said...

Lucy and Tess, This conflict sure feels like God is offering us an opportunity to take things to a deeper level as a community and learn how to love each other more and more. It will require firm and loving guidance if we are to navigate it. However, it is also one of those issues that we might just as easily ignore. I really don't believe that is what God wants for us, but maybe the community will decide that we are not ready yet. Love...

SUNRISE SISTER said...

Rebecca -

May your church community come together and be an example to others of love and reconciliation for all. How unjust it must feel on your side and on the prisoners' sides to be kept from the task of giving and receiving God's blessing because of someone's narrow view of God's grace for all of us.

The Pollinatrix said...

I've always thought that if God didn't want us to engage mindfully in conflict, the Bible would be a very different book!

Conflict makes us uncomfortable, so we tend to label it as "bad." But I think it's the label more than the actual conflict that does the true harm.

I really like what Tess said here. I think that when we can love from within conflict, that is when the greatest healing happens. There has been an affirmation of just that in my immediate environment recently, in a situation that could have gone very differently if it hadn't been embraced lovingly.

It's just hard to get everybody to love at once :)

Rebecca Johnson said...

SS, As we have continued to talk and pray about this issue, we all recognize that even as flawed as the people are who will be carrying out the Kairos ministry this weekend, and the fact that our people have been hurt, the love of Christ will still be shared. I, too, am flawed. I have hurt and failed people in other ways. As I stay with this, it makes me want to be more loving, more supportive, more aware of extending grace. The people that excluded members of my community and pained them feel like my enemies right now. I label them as the ones who are to blame for holding us back, as Christians, as a humanity. But I am called to love them, to forgive them and to recognize that in some way, we are all trying to find our way. Thanks for your thoughts and yes, I still feel so pained for the people whose love and care was deemed unworthy. But, we know better. Love...

Rebecca Johnson said...

Hi Pollinatrix, I have been over at your website over the last few days. Many of the pics there are stuck in my head!

Thanks for your thoughts here. I so agree with you that conflict is "uncomfortable" and I react so quickly to it, trying to get it over with, that I rarely settle in to really see/hear/know the other side of the issue and what I am so afraid of. I'm so happy that you had such a wonderful experience in a time of conflict. I have had some as well and hope to be the mediator of many more. : )

I am trying very hard to learn to love all the time. All the time. Love...