Post-Annual Conference reflections on Isaiah 1:16-18.
Today, I eat humble pie and repent of the sins I’ve committed in my own head as I’ve “reflected” on the events of the weekend. How many fake arguments did you win on your drive home yesterday or while laying in bed, attempting to sleep? Or how many real events did you reshape with some courageous act or bolder language?
Enter Isaiah 1:16-18 with me:
Today, I ask the Holy Spirit to remove from me the ugly thoughts and put an end to such evil. Teach me to do good with my reflections and in the words I share with my family, my congregations, my friends, and my neighbors.
Today, I seek justice: Help those who feel they’ve been ignored or silenced to heal and receive the spirit of the Lord. Defend those who feel orphaned by their denomination and plead for the members who remain in grief.
It’s time to let the Lord settle this. Purify us and make us wholly Yours, o God, starting within me.
Recognize that these same words are being read and prayed on all sides of our theological divide. These words, after General Conference in February, would have spoken primarily to the liberal camp. In many of our Annual Conferences (in the US particularly), today, these words speak to the conservative camp.
We just keep turning the tables on one another and silencing one another. In attempts to seek equal rights, we really seek special rights. If we dig in our heals in this tug-of-war, the rope is going to break. When that happens, both sides fall down and experience casualties. Both sides will eventually heal and get back up, but wouldn’t it be better if we could just drop the rope and allow each church to move forward in ministry in their own direction, together or separately as God leads them?
As we prepare for the next round of conferencing, I pray for all of our bishops and newly elected General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates across the connection. Whatever camp you have landed in, may you not silence the voice of the others. May you recognize the humanity and the love of God which extends to those on the other side too.
May we all recognize the assumptions we’ve made of each other and the sins we’ve committed in our own heads toward one another so that we can step back into reality with repentance, being filled with God’s love and compassion.
*A note to readers who are unaware of the context: The main point I want to make to all churches seeking to grow in the midst of turmoil and disagreement is this:
If our ministries are going to grow out of disagreement, then we have to acknowledge that some of what we think about those events and the persons “on the other side” may actually come from the story we made up in our heads. Some of our emotions are fueled not by reality, but by our assumptions and sins of certainty. So, we have to step out of our heads in a spirit of repentance and allow God to reveal His truth and His will to us.
This may be even more significant in rural ministry because we can not simply walk away and hide from one another (which is also true in the context of a connectional denomination).