Can't we all just get along?

More reactions to the reactions to the reactions to General Convention and the Episcopal Church. Popular bloggers, AKMA in Random Thoughts and Rachel Held Evans both discuss the liberal-conservative divide and wonder how to encourage conversation between those who have divided into camps over issues to get beyond tossing snark at one another.

Encouraged by those who stand on the sidelines like kids on the playground who shout "fight" "fight" or who say "let's you and him fight" - both bloggers seek a place where people can learn to argue better and still show the world "those Christians, how they love one another."
AKMA:

As an observer, it seems that several points are being bandied about as though they all lined up tidily to separate sheep from goats. It ain’t necessarily so.

First, let’s please stop treating attendance statistics as simple indicators.
....
Second, the rush toward cheerleading for one side and finger-wagging at the other side underscores a different problem (again, for any ‘side’). Rather than upholding deliberation, humility, respect for difference, and determination to seek truth and to support desperately needy, injured, oppressed people, a very great many people opt to stand on sidelines waving pom-poms for one side and taunting the other side.
...
I won’t set myself up as a prophet who speaks God’s mind and adjudicates conflicts among ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ relative to the vitality of churches. On strictly secular grounds, though, I can assure people who laud shallow theology and deprecate reasonable criticism that they’re selling sackcloth as silk, and that’s not a recipe for long-term viability. It’s not a family trade you want to hand down to your children. Cheerleading and finger-wagging help you sort out who’s on your side and who’s not, they make for great pep rallies, but they don’t obviate the need to do something wisely and well.

Rachel Held Evans
Both [Ross Douthat and Diana Butler Bass were thoughtful, relatively charitable articles, but I was disheartened to see my Facebook and Twitter feeds light up with gleeful jeers from conservative evangelicals essentially saying, “let the liberals die!” followed by defensive responses from more progressive Mainliners reminding them, “we may be dying but we’re taking you with us!”

Missing from the whole dialog was any sense that we’re in this together, that, as followers of Jesus, we may need to put our heads together to re-imagine what it means to be the Church in a postmodern, American culture where confidence in organized religion is at an all-time low.

Meanwhile, I feel totally caught in between.


Evans continues with lists of why she does not fit in either "camp" of what people usually believe and sometimes experience in liberal and conservative churches. She offers her own prescription for the future, including

Be ourselves:

When I think of someone doing this well, I think of my friend Alise Wright. Alise, whose best friend is gay, is openly gay-affirming, and yet she continues to attend and serve a more conservative church where few of her fellow worshipers would agree with her position on homosexuality. In fact, she helps lead worship every Sunday! What I love about Alise is that she’ll straight-up tell you what she thinks about something, but never demand that you agree. She doesn’t make a big stink about it; she just participates in her faith community as herself, refusing to accept the “package deal.”

Nurture diverse communities of faith:
I was invited to speak to faith communities that displayed a crazy blend of evangelical fervor and progressive inclusivism, that included a diverse group of people politically, theologically, and socially, and that loved one another like I’ve never seen before. More and more of these communities are popping up around the country. I think of RISE Church in Harrisonburg (United Methodist), Missiongathering in San Diego (Disciples of Christ), The Refuge (non-denominational) and The House for All Sinners and Saints (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) in Denver, and many more.

Let’s learn to argue better
Conservative, liberal, or in-between, we should continue to debate the doctrines and practices closest to our hearts. Unity is not the same as uniformity. But when we debate, we should do it assuming the best about one another, taking our thumbs off the scale, honoring our shared commitment to Christ. We don’t have to be on the same page on every issue in order to love one another and work for peace.

Comments (3)

Ross Douthat is a young man who thinks he knows a lot more than is actually in evidence in his columns in the NYT, thus I concluded some time ago that my time was better spent than reading his opinions. However, I did read his summing up of TEC's GC12 and and the state of the Episcopal Church, and I found so many factual errors, that I threw up my hands in despair and dismissed his words.

I presume because his column appeared in "the Newspaper of Record", it has received a good deal of attention and commentary. Today, I reread his words to see if I'd missed the "thoughtful, relatively charitable" piece of which Rachel Evans speaks, and - alas! - I could not find the charity, but I did find evidence of faulty thinking.

The conclusions that he draws from statistics as to the causes for the fall in numbers in mainline churches are surely open to question. His own church, the Roman Catholic Church, has lost huge numbers, and were it not for immigration, the numbers would be much worse. That Douthat holds up the present pope as an example of a good leader is mind-boggling. The statement that the pope goes after the RC nuns only to save them from extinction is laughable!

For Douthat to think that the folks of his generation and younger are demanding from the churches more dogma and doctrine seems to me a serious misreading of the Zeitgeist. "I'm spiritual but not religious," is hardly a cry for a more rigid system of beliefs.

June Butler

When through a series of life experiences I left the Roman Catholic Church for the Episcopal Church, I didn't resort to name calling, criticism or just petty nastiness. I was grateful for my time in the RCC as it brought me to the place where spiritually I was ready to come home to TEC. My wonderful mother of blessed memory gave me the best advice, "If you're not happy get the hell out" LOL so I did. Now I'm happy. My relationship with the Lord has become deeper and more intimate. And my awareness of the needs around me and the need to be His hands to hurting, suffering sisters and brothers. I'm aware the poor man is my neighbor, the gay man is my neighbor, the girl who had an abortion is my neighbor...God Bless TEC and our awesome PB!

DruidThaxted - please sign your name if you wish to see your comments published. Thanks for joining the conversation. ~ed.

The Continuing Indaba process (www.continuingindaba.com), which was affirmed by GC77 (Doo8), offers a vision for the church to flourish in our common life – where ever we ‘fit’. It is relationship centred, beginning with people discovering common faith in different context. In not trying to impose answers but in asking the questions together we commit to travel together on a Gospel-shaped journey. As we journey together and truly engage in the other’s context, a process that takes time, effort, and commitment, deepening relationships we can actually beginning to speak to one another across our differences and understand why we have those differences.
The experience from the Continuing Indaba pilot conversations so far is that out of those relationships comes more energy for the mission of God in the local and global contexts.

APJ - please sign your name when you comment at the Café - thanks ~ed.

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