This week I am attending the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Indianapolis. There are a few thousand of us present, attending workshops, visiting with old friends and making new ones, checking out all the information booths and buying gifts (And Chocolate!) for ourselves and others at the many Fair Trade booths, and doing our best to run the local baristas out of coffee. For us West Coast folks Steak n Shake is a popular mealtime destination, as most of us don’t have access to this particular hamburger chain. There are amazing worship services featuring good music and powerful preaching. And there are business meetings.
I must confess right away that I have been to very little of this Assembly in person. The wonderful menus selected by the various schools and other organizations whose meals I attended were very rich and oh so very yummy. Unfortunately, although my mouth LOVES rich foods, the rest of my system does not. So I have spent most of this Assembly in my hotel room wandering between bed and bathroom instead of in the Convention Center wandering between workshops and Plenary Sessions. :-(
But I have been paying attention. Many of my friends Tweet about what is going on in the worship services and business meetings, and some write fairly lengthy commentaries at the end of each day. Between those writers and the daily news released by the Disciples News Service, I have a fair idea of what is happening.
There have been many Sense of the Assembly Resolutions passed by this Assembly. They are about carbon neutrality and immigration and the Doctrine of Discovery and caring for the poor and treating the Canadian Disciples of Christ equally and whether or not to continue having General Assemblies every other year. Plenty of people stood up at the microphones to speak in favor of all these Social Justice resolutions, but hardly anyone spoke out against anything. That either means that every resolution presented was so well written and such a no-brainer that none of the hundreds of voters present had any objection to any of them . . . Or that for some reason those who would speak against felt that they should keep silence.
According to some of the conversations I have seen on Twitter and Facebook, the latter is much more the case than the former.
Some years back, in my first church, one of the Elders decided that his invitation to giving should be a monologue on the giant “mistake” being made by the City Council, in which he made it pretty clear that anyone who was not as liberal as he and as concerned about homelessness as he was no true Christian. A few days later one of the older ladies called me and begged me to talk to her sister. It seems that she heard what he said as a condemnation of her affiliation with the Republican Party, and believed that she would no longer be welcome in our congregation. This could not have been further from the truth! We had a conversation in which I made it as clear as I possibly could that one man’s opinion was just that - one man’s opinion - and that he did not speak for the entire congregation, only for himself. She stayed with us until her death several years later. (I also had a conversation with the Elder, who honestly didn’t believe what he said was political in the least. He was convinced he was talking about social justice, period.)
I have been reading some “discussions” on Facebook and Twitter with nearly as much dismay as I felt when I was asked to speak with my elderly member all those years ago. There are some who are feeling pushed out. There are some who are actually saying in print that anyone who voted for President Trump doesn’t belong in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
And yet we keep talking about “One” - about Unity. Jose Morales preached on Saturday night that Unity, true unity, is very difficult, because it does NOT mean that everyone agrees on everything, rather that everyone has different opinions and agree to work together towards the Beloved Community, a world where justice and compassion rule and oppression is a thing of the past. That means the liberal and conservative, the oppressed and the privileged, the old and the young, all must work together toward that one goal - and All means All. It doesn’t mean that if you disagree, you need to leave. It doesn’t mean if you disagree, you don’t belong here. It means that if you disagree, you need to find a way to present your side in such a way that others will hear you - and that you must be willing to listen when someone you disagree with needs to speak.
I love this Church. But I am fearful that we are becoming as deeply divided as our nation is. I am fearful that the Church that welcomed me, who wasn’t welcome elsewhere, will come to an end, and I will belong nowhere, again. I pray that we will work toward being One through the use of this beloved saying:
In essentials Unity. In non-essentials, Liberty. In all things, Love.