I have watched more of General Conference this year than ever before. The live streaming has been of high quality and I have had some time to invest in watching. And there have been wonderful things to see. Awesome worship. Inspiring presentations about lives changed and situations effected because of our ministry around the world. Those things have warmed my heart and I celebrate the wonderful work we have been about and are planning to be about into the future.
But of course into the midst of that great and significant work are our struggles, and the deep challenges that are before our church. And while I don’t know what will happen from the decisions yet to be made in Portland, as delegates board planes for home on Friday, I pray that they will have chosen, even in the midst of deep disagreement, a path of respect and love. I know to many that may sound like a naïve hope, but it remains for me a sincere one. Because I honestly believe that God cares more about how we live our lives especially how we treat one another than God cares about our “correct and accurate” theological beliefs. I know some would disagree with that statement, and I don’t believe that it’s ultimately an either/or, but I hold to my statement.
Scripture teaches us beliefs and theological perspectives to be sure, but belief in any theological position is not very meaningful if it is not accompanied by a life lived in Christ. And if the primary call upon our lives (as Jesus said it was when asked about it), is to love God and neighbor with everything we are, then I don’t care what belief or theological position you are arguing for or against, the way in which you approach the other is of vital significance.
Now love is not synonymous with submission. That’s not what I am suggesting. Sometimes love calls us to take a stand, to present our case with conviction and passion. But when that conviction closes us off to listening and to valuing the “other,” when we are so sure of our righteousness that we are not open to the possibility that we have missed something and could grow and learn, then we have moved outside the leadership of God’s Spirit and become, dare I say, a god unto ourselves.
I am praying today for our General Conference. There are things I believe they should do. There are actions I hope they will take. But in the midst of the conversations in Portland I pray all parties will show genuine love for one another, I pray that they will listen and respect one another even when the disagreement is great. What a witness to the world that would be. From the General Conference to our local churches what a witness it can be.