In the last week and a half Columbus Mennonite has been in both The Mennonite and the Mennonite World Review because of our hiring of Mark. In this digital world, stories travel fast on social media and comments become just as publicly accessible as the story itself. The large majority of responses we’ve received through the office have been enthusiastically supportive. I’m aware that a number of you have had personal interactions with friends and family members, not all of them affirming of our path. I don’t mean for the following to come off as overly advice column-ish, but for those more difficult conversations, here are some thoughts and hopes for how we might enter those in a way that builds on our common humanity and avoids excessive polarization.
+ Find something to affirm in the other person. Most folks speak out of a genuine concern, and wish to be faithful to God, as they understand God. It can be disarming and change the tone of a conversation if one replies with something like, “I can tell that you care deeply about the church.”
+ Disagreement and conflict is normal. Rather than trying to resolve the disagreement, one approach is to say that we’re still committed to be the other person’s friend/family/fellow Christian, despite differences.
+ Tell a story. Stories are powerful and it’s difficult to argue with a story.
+ Don’t concede the Bible! Ok, so I feel rather strongly about this one. I’m bothered by the stereotype that progressive people of faith don’t care about the Bible and disregard its clear message on this. No and no. The Bible has always been open to interpretation and in our Anabaptist tradition it is the work of the people to discern what it is saying to us in our time. For a brief example, the Ministerial Committee of CDC has done good work in naming its biblical/theological foundations for credentialing LGBTQ persons. The document is HERE.
+ “Come and see.” This is a phrase that is said by four different people in the gospel of John and serves as a way of inviting others to come and discover for themselves what Jesus is up to. Rather than trying to win an argument or prove anything, the invitation is put out there for people to “Come and see” whether God is present through his actions. It feels like the right kind of tone and gesture for how we might respond to folks skeptical as to whether the Spirit is present among us. Rather than trying to win an argument, we can invite them to come and see the life we have in our worship, in our service, in our love for one another. We’ll have a chance to further ponder this phrase during the November 9 worship service.
Blessings, wisdom, and much goodness to you in all your thoughts and interactions.