We’re continuing to consider some posts from Mark Love’s blog Dei-liberations. This will likely be the last post until post-surgery.
Today, we consider Mark’s post “Why I Don’t Leave Even Though …” (ellipsis in original).
Now, Mark’s post is about his egalitarian views on the role of women, which is very much a minority view in the Churches of Christ, although less and less so.
I don’t want this to be about the role of women, however. Rather, the aspect of the post that intrigues me is Mark’s very honest reflections on why he should stay in a denomination when he finds himself in a minority position on an issue dear to his heart.
I mean, that’s true of nearly all of us. There are so very many “issues” that we nearly all find ourselves in the minority on something.
As to myself, well, I get invited to leave on nearly a daily basis. The theory is, “If you don’t like what we believe here, why don’t you leave?” And sometimes … sometimes … I ask myself the very same question.
In fact, I think some who leave serve the interests of change within the tradition they are leaving. Change will require that some leave and that some stay.
But I stay.
If I want to see change, would it really help to leave? I mean, I can see where it might help me, but would it help the Churches of Christ for me to leave?
Of course, we in the Churches aren’t the only people on the planet who matter, but I don’t see the benefit to the Churches themselves when those who want to see change leave. Doesn’t that just yield control to those who disagree? Doesn’t that create a one-sided debate? How would that help?
And surely, in part, it’s because this is my tradition. These people taught me to love God. It’s what I know and these are the people I’ve learned to love. More, I’ve been around enough to know there are no easy fits for me elsewhere. I’m not an evangelical. I’m not Reformed. I’m not episcopal in terms of polity. So, it’s not obvious where I’d go.
But this is not why I stay.
Indeed. Tradition may be tradition only, but it’s still my tradition and where I feel most comfortable and at home. It’s where I know my way around. It’s where God put me — perhaps for a reason.
And like Mark, I have no desire to join a Baptist or Methodist congregation. They have their own issues, and I’m too old to deal with someone else’s battles.
I stay because I recognize the journey this has been in my own life. I haven’t always held this position. This journey was one I made over time and with the best resources in front of me. … There was grace for me, in other words, all along the way.
So, I stay because I want to allow this to be a journey of grace for others as well, a journey that may be more difficult for them than it was for me. … I know that many of these people are better Christians than I am and that I still have much to learn from them.
It took me time and study to reach my current positions. And a whole lot of hard work. Why should I abandon others who are on the same path but not as far down the road. That would be … graceless.
And I stay because I have seen people like this consider and listen and engage, and some even change their views. I used to think that people who didn’t agree with me were just closed-minded. …
Exactly. God is patient with his people. We have to be patient with each other. We should not commit the Fundamental Attribution Error, that is, assuming that I am the only one in the room with good excuses for my failings.
And I stay because progress is being made. … Is it enough? Is it fast enough? No. But change is happening.
Indeed. Not everywhere. And achingly slowly at times — oftentimes. But the Spirit is moving powerfully, often invisibly, like the wind behind a window, but his movement is real.
Good stuff. (What a great writer Mark Love is!)
Mark followed that post with a post called Observations on a chord/nerve struck. Much of this second post is a follow up about the role of women issue — which is important to me but not today’s topic. He also wrote,
I want to be clear that in my own practice of ministry, it’s not my goal to have everyone think like me or to have churches do what I think is right. My goal is to create an environment in congregations where the Spirit of God can move and the congregation can discern together what it is that God is calling them to. None of the congregations that I have served fully embody my doctrinal preferences and that shouldn’t be my standard for success. The ability to talk about things in open, careful, and honest ways, however, is a goal of mine. If it is not even possible to talk about issues related to gender, and other topics, then I can’t in good conscience serve there.
I’m an elder. That gives me more influence than most. But my goal is not and never has been to use my authority to impose results on an unwilling congregation.
To me, what’s critical is that the topics be open for discussion — but not merely in the abstract. We have to be willing to discuss real things as real things. That is, if we reach a conclusion, we need to be willing to act on that conclusion — even if it hurts our reputation or makes our parents mad or ruins Thanksgiving Dinner with our siblings or someone says something hateful about us from a pulpit or in a bulletin.
We weren’t put here to play and posture and piddle. Rather, we should talk. Try to reach a consensus on what God wants. And then do what God wants — whatever that is, whatever the price may be.
But if we enter into the discussion with preconditions, if we insist that change which we admit is needed can’t happen because the price is too high — then we’re idolaters. If it’s more important that the church of my childhood think well of me than that God think well of me, then I’m worshiping the wrong God.
It really is just that simple.
But it’s never, ever about authority or power — whether exercised by an elder or by a gossip. After all, the power to tear down with lies and innuendo and passive-aggression is just as authoritarian as the power to command from the elders’ conference table.
No, Christians are to act like adults — adults who love each other. And adults are able not only to discuss tough issues, but also they are willing to make hard choices when they’ve come to see the need for a decision.
Oh — and I must keep reminding myself of this — adults can live with being outvoted or overruled. Adults know that in every organization that there is, not everyone gets his or her way. Not even me.
And that’s good, because I’m not the only person who matters or the only person who cares about God’s will. Or even the wisest man in the room. Therefore, I should expect — even hope — not to always get my way.
And when I don’t get my way, I won’t leave. That decision was made a long time ago. But sometimes it helps to remember why.