Depending on your personality and maybe your passions, you may love or you may hate denominational business sessions. More often than not, besides seemingly mundane structural issues, like changing the borders of regions, most of our votes touch on matters of social justice. These votes can take on the aura of a political convention -- with two sides arguing vociferously for their perspective. On occasion there will be boos and there will be applause. Rarely are minds changed as a result, and rarely do the votes translate into any real action on the part of congregations. We call these sense of assembly resolutions that reflect the sentiment of those gathered for this event. Although written in the form of a legal document, there usually is some attempt at biblical or theological rationale.
Being that my politics is left of center I'm usually on board with most of the resolutions, even if I may have qualms with aspects -- usually the theological foundations that are found in the whereas sections. So, for the most part I vote yes. Rarely do we vote on specifically doctrinal matters. A few years ago there was a resolution on salvation that was put forth by more conservative groups, which failed, and another on biblical authority (it also failed to garner support). We usually turn these aside as infringements on on our non-creedal tenets.
But here's the question I've been trying to raise in my previous reflections and hope will carry on through in the reflections that I'll be working with in coming days. I plan to pick up on several of the resolutions, including the one that will surely garner much debate, and that is the one dealing with the call to be welcoming and gracious to our LGBT brothers and sisters. I sense that there is much unease going in to this assembly. There is potential for acrimony and division. Much of the conversation on both sides seems to pass over the heads of the other side of the debate.
So, when we come to vote, and will vote -- in fact we'll be voting on an emergency resolution to which I lent my endorsement (Ill talk about that at the appropriate time) -- what will our attitude be? Will we come with prayerful hearts? Will we be able to listen to diverse voices with patience and grace?
As church we must come to grips with what it means to be a people who value unity of the body of Christ. Our witness to unity -- our polar star -- has not been without challenges. We've divided before, and we likely will divide again. As a movement we've claimed that the Civil War didn't divide us, and yet the truth is, it did -- some of it being social and economic in nature.
So what should we make of our votes? As we vote are seeking to know what everyone in the room is thinking, or are we desiring to hear the voice of God? Too often our attempts at discernment are focused on getting our own voice heard, rather than putting ourselves in a place to hear God speak?
Luke Timothy John, whose book Scripture & Discernment: Decision Making in the Church I'm reading, speaks of the need to bring Scripture and experience into conversation with each other. He's concerned not just about the decisions that get made, but the process by which they're made. This next week as the General Assembly gathers in Orlando, we will start the meet with prayer. We'll have theological discussion, and then we'll take a vote with the majority carrying the day. I don't know a different way at this point, but I do wonder -- where is God in this?