Summer time usually will mark the scheduling of several major church denomination conferences. The Presbyterian Church ( USA ) has General Assembly, The United Church Of Christ has General Synod (which meets every other year ), the Unitarian-Universalist Association ( UUA ) has General Assembly, The United Methodist Church has their General Conference.
All of these gatherings of church delegates and visitors will usually debate a variety of proposals which could range from immigration reform, divesting stock from corporations/companies who produce fossil fuel, to proposals mandating a minimum wage, that being fifteen dollars per hour or higher.
All of these gatherings also will painstakingly declare that the positions adopted reflect those who are gathered at these conferences and not necessarily the viewpoint of the entire church.
For those of us who don't attend these annual meetings, we read about the deliberations in our newspapers or on our digital news websites and then we try to explain the significance of all of this to our congregations.
One would hope that when there is controversy or arguments regarding positions that it would be over something big like do we want to continue and authorize and support any further off shore drilling for oil as opposed to arguing about what is listed in one's signature block.
Christianity, indeed several faith traditions, at times, have been vulnerable to elevating the trivial to the height of extreme hypocrisy.
Phillip Jenkins in his wonderful book " The Jesus Wars " (2005) summarizes the doctrinal positions and the various theological communities that debated one another at the great canonical conferences ranging from Nicaea to Chalcedon. Among their arguments were :
Is Jesus purely human ? Is Jesus purely divine or Is Jesus both human and divine (Homoousios ) ?
These types of questions posed great reaction and variance of opinion and sometimes also provoked great violence.
Phillip Jenkins quotes observers who attended the Fourth Lateran Council ( 1215 ) who described the activities of the attendees as quote
" The council of thugs ".
I don't know about you but I have attended some church meetings where great ideas and policies were debated and where decisions were made that literally generated life changing results for the lives of many people.
Then again, I have attended church meetings that were more in the genre of "the council of thugs. "
There's a saying that goes that what we don't understand, we try to destroy.
It's a devastating commentary when Christianity or any religious tradition stoops to this low level reptile brain carnivorous functioning and behavior.
This year again like summer blockbuster movies, national church conferences will meet and these denominational religious bodies will proclaim important policy positions.
My prayer for them this year is that they vote to affirm to become more loving and less judgmental, that they will commit themselves to listen and to learn, even if they don't like what they hear or if it challenges their favorite theological hobby horse. If church bodies could do this, it would be far healthier than their tried and true tactic of throwing those " agitators " under the institutional orthodox bus.
Micah, the Old Testament prophet, was heard to say that we should
"Love justice, do mercy and walk humbly with our God ( to that I will add however known ).
I hope that what the Church will want to say now, this summer and in the future, is that their mission is to be beacons of love, reconciliation, forgiveness and justice for all. If we can realize this truth, this summer and beyond, maybe then the message of the Church to the world will become relevant again and will indeed change lives.
May it be so.
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