Saturday, January 07, 2012

Finding True Unity

  • 133 Look at how good and pleasing it is
  • when families live together as one!
  • 2 It is like expensive oil
  • poured over the head,
  • running down onto the beard—
  • Aaron’s beard!—
  • which extended over the collar
  • of his robes.
  • 3 It is like the dew on Mount Hermon
  • streaming down
  • onto the mountains of Zion
  • because it is there that the LORD
  • has commanded the blessing:
  • everlasting life.


 We live in a rather polarized age.  We find it difficult to dwell together and learn from each other, and so we huddle in groups of like-minded folks.  We find it difficult to even be in conversation with those from our own family (religiously), but is this wise?  Or would we benefit by expanding our conversation partners?

Last evening, before heading off to teach a theology of ministry class for Licensed Ministry students, I dined with a new friend.  John hails from another branch of the Stone-Campbell Movement, and teaches Bible at one of their colleges.  Because of old arguments, our two branches don't speak to each other very often.  We may be related, but we find it difficult to be together.

Now John and I wouldn't agree on every issue, but we discovered that we share a lot in common, and I look forward to further conversations.  Hopefully, as a result, we can build some bridges between our branches.

And as the Psalmist makes so very clear -- this would be pleasing to God!

May we all seek to find ways of building bridges.  Our world would be much better off!


Brian said...

Yes, reaching out to "the other" is good. Respect for those with different views is good. Where there are no specifics, all is well.

In this post you point out that there are things you'd disagree with. These things are unspecified (per the goal of the post). Now I wish to put some flesh on the bones.

Is your new friend John ordained? If John were Joan, this would not be an option.

Does your new friend John believe that the Bible is a supernatural book that contains the "literal and inerrant word of God"? If so, I don't want him teaching at a quality seminary.

Does John believe that your homosexual brother is loved by God and should be free to marry a man? Call me psychic, but I suspect not.

Build bridges of understanding? Yes! In the process of deeper understanding, let us remember why we are separated. These are not "old" disagreements. They are fresh.

I know that you find yourself in the position of being a centrist. There is an important place for this. Centrism is how things get done. Yet, my criticism of much centrist thought, including some I've read from you over this past year or so, is that I find it starts with 2 ideas and seeks synthesis. I suggest it more appropriate to start not by looking at 2 views, but by seeking first the best view. If it falls between 2 popular poles, hey great! In my opinion, the best ideas rarely fall in the middle of 2 positions.

Anyhoo, I do think it is great when we meet and fellowship with those who differ from us. You are good at bringing this to discussion. I hope you and John get to spend some more time together. Truly, you had communion.

Robert Cornwall said...


While we didn't cover all the issues at hand, my dinner partner is a John Howard Yoder scholar and a Pacifist in a community that doesn't generally value pacifism. I would expect that he would affirm the ordination/ministry of women. We didn't talk about homosexuality, but a rather large percentage of Disciples (perhaps not clergy) would either oppose or be uncomfortable with gay marriage.

I'm not sure I'm a centrist, but I seek to find points of agreement and start there. Call me Obama if you wish!

Conversation, however, cannot begin if I think I've got the best view and you don't, so if the conversation is going to continue you have to agree with me.

This is even more true when we move toward crossing religious boundaries.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

"Conversation, however, cannot begin if I think I've got the best view and you don't, so if the conversation is going to continue you have to agree with me."

I don't think this is true Bob. I can use myself as empirical evidence. I have stated more than once that my goals are not to have people agree with me, but to provide a voice for proggies. I have respectful dialogue with those I disagree with all the time. I have no interest in them agreeing with me. They are God's beloved children just as they are. Besides, having people disagree with me provides a better tool for educating others (as a compare/contrast sort of thing).

I recall a workshop on inter-faith dialogue. The guest Buddhist stated that his biggest annoyance with proggie Christians is that we are so apologetic about our faith. He said he wished interfaith dialogue would occur in which people gather and honestly believe their religion is "the best". He used the comparison of mother. "I'd hate to meet someone who doesn't say 'my mother is the best mother in the world'".

Likewise for religion. "My views are the best", but of course, this is only a subjective experience. I don't want to meet someone who doesn't believe their religious ideas are the best. Certainly you believe your ideas are best or you wouldn't do what you do.

I know that I see things differently than you do, but I have zero interest in you changing to become more like me.

RE: centrism - I'm thinking that I recall you stating that you often find yourself in the center. I could be wrong. If one consistently find's oneself in the center, one may be a centrist regardless of choosing that label.

Anyhoo, the point of the original post is solid. Folks need to respect people who are different and learn from them. We all do. It is especially fun to chat with others from the independent Christian churches and the Church of Christ. I look forward to more posts on your growing friendship with John.

John said...


I agree that I find my self admiring and wanting to spend time with those who truly believe their position is the best. And when I put forth my position I do so with the belief that it the most correct. I hope to learn from them what they are most passionate about. (Even the racists and the misogynists and the homophobes.) Not only do I hope to have some positive impact, but the conversation contributes to sharpening my own beliefs, and to improving my understanding of why we are different. And in the end I would not be disappointed if either or both of us came to see and even adopt certain positions of the other, (excepting the racists, misogynists, and homophobes) because that implies personal growth and a growing awareness of larger truths, and that has to be good, and that has to make God smile.

"Anyhoo" I think God always smiles (and often laughs) at you!

Brian said...

I hope God is laughing with me rather than at me.

David said...

No one injured or killed. What a great story. Living gestures like this help. Fars has a point too.

"The rescue of Iranian sailors by American forces is considered a humanitarian gesture and we welcome this behavior," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by state TV's Al-Alam Arabic channel.

Iran's hard-line Fars news agency had a different take, calling the rescue operation a Hollywood dramatization of a routine event.

The Fars report noted that attacks by Somali pirates in the region are common and said that Iran's navy has itself freed many mariners held by pirates in recent years without seeking to highly publicize it.

David said...

Off topic, but I heard this song "Welcome to the Rain" last night and wanted to share. Hey, the whole albums good-

David said...

This is an interesting study, with likely parallels to the USA being a "Christian Country" debate..

Observant Christians aren't likely to espouse or support those types
of views. Only the "in name only".

Brian said...

David - I don't know what fars is.

David said...

Hi Brian,

Fars is, Um, Iran's FOX news I guess.

What time is your radio show on?

Brian said...

David - I don't have a radio show. The pic is from a recent guest spot on KKFI FM community radio in KC.

Thanks for the info. I learned something today!

Brian said...

Somehow I'm sensing my first post was experienced as being critical of your thesis, even though I went out of my way to specifically state that it is not. Meeting with folks from other traditions is beautiful. It made me think that it has been too long since I've spoken face to face with one of our Stone-Campbell friends from one of the other legs of the stool. I'll have to pick up the phone and fix that.

Bob - which branch is your new friend John from?

John - I think that God finds you fantastic just as you are. No passive-aggressive insults. No snark.

John said...



Robert Cornwall said...


My friend John, not to be confused with "Commenter John," who, along with David are church members at CWCC, is from the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. I'm also in regular conversation with the folks at Rochester College, which is Church of Christ.

In both communities there is amazing breadth, as is true of DOC. I'm enriched by the conversations with both communities.

I should note that my new friend, is on the left end of the CC/CC, so he too serves as a bridge.