To follow up from last week…
What does the church need to talk about?
What is the church afraid to talk about?
What has the church talked about too much?
These were the key questions that guided the discussion last Friday and Saturday at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS). The time wasn’t quite what I expected. It was much more contemplative than brainstormy, using a circle process that included passing around a talking object (only the one holding the object can talk) and practicing speaking into the center of the circle rather than to any individuals in the circle. The time was also fairly non-conclusive in narrowing things down to five conversations the church needs to have over the next decade. The goal of the conveners was to get ideas out on the table, not make any final decisions. Over the next decade the seminary will be hosting five major conferences, and the themes from those conferences will be informed by the ideas that came out over the weekend.
There were about 20 of us, from the US and Canada, and we were kind of all over the map with our responses to these questions, although some themes converged. What does the church need to talk about? Power dynamics in the church, how we experience the Holy Spirit, many people’s drift away from church, why church at all? our language and theology and how we use scripture, watershed discipleship, countercultural formation…. What is the church afraid to talk about? Affluence/class/wealth, dying, historical sexual abuse of indigenous persons, idols, afraid to talk about God, afraid to passionately disagree…. What has the church talked about too much? Homosexuality, getting to heaven, its own failures, anxiety about people leaving church, community, the church has talked too much about its own impending demise – that last one was my contribution : )
A few observations from the weekend:
+ What gets said depends on who’s in the room. There were no men of color and just a few women of color. One young woman remarked at one point that she knew she was chosen because she was indigenous and she felt the need to speak for her whole people, even though we had been asked to speak just our own perspective. At one point I noticed I was the only pastor in the room. When we speak, who do we speak for?
+ Communication is an act of hope.
+ These questions – What does the church need to talk about? What is the church afraid to talk about? What has the church talked about too much? – are also important ones to be asking on a congregational level.
+ Loving the church and being critical of it are not mutually exclusive, on the contrary…