Ecclesiological Musings

Yet another combination of words, I never thought I’d use. So anyway, I’m listening to a doctrine lecture on ecclesiology the morning, and Dr. C gets his preach on again – and I mean that in the most respectful way because I do love when he goes off the lecture manuscript and gets all passionate. This time, it’s in the middle of a point about how a Trinitarian view of ecclesiology makes the idea of unity less abstract and more pragmatic. For instance, if we believe that we are to maintain true fellowship, like the koinonia expressed in the unity of the Trinity, then we must always seek to serve one another and to discern together what God is calling the body to do.

He talked about how throughout the church’s history – even around issues that can cause great divisiveness- if people are committed to keeping that fellowship, they can come to consensus and love one another through the process. It’s when one side or the other wants to end the conflict sooner than the time it takes to reach and organic or natural resolution that things get nasty and fellowship is broken. He went on to say that, people tend to utilize political power to do so, which often comes in the form of Robert’s Rules or hierarchy.

While (CLEARLY) not an ecclesial body, we see that lived out in the legislature all the time. The party with the power uses it to force things through, while the party out of power uses as many procedural maneuvers as possible to block that motion. Neither party is right – at least in terms of finding their way to a mutually beneficial and mutually respectful solution. Bills get passed or defeated, but everyone walks away further frustrated or angry with the other side.

We see it in the denomination to which I belong. The PC(USA) has been dealing with the issues surrounding ordination of GLBT people in the church for 20+ years, with greater or lesser degrees of fellowship on display. In the most recent past, the fellowship is quite close to being broken, as people on both ends of the spectrum threaten to walk away if their political maneuvering at GA doesn’t bring their desired outcome.

But neither of those was a new revelation… I have long been of the opinion that the best thing that could happen in both of those situations is for people to sit down away from the issues and get to know one another, come to love one another, and build trust in one another. I never known that I was arguing from a Trinitarian viewpoint, but I suppose that’s what seminary is all about: ascribing fancy words to those things God has already put in your heart. But my aha wasn’t about vocabulary, either.

I’m not even sure I realized it. More correctly, God revealed to me in that lecture that was that the broken relationship that I can’t seem to reconcile was broken exactly in that way. I was hoping to resolve an acute situation in a way that would benefit not just my family but others in the faith community, but that was going to require both sides admitting some fault. Rather than do that in a way that allowed for compassion and fellowship through some hard conversations, a political power play ensued. A vote (or two) was taken, the matter was settled, but not without collateral damage to the koinonia I had experienced up to that point.

I wonder now, what that meeting would have looked like, if Robert’s Rules hadn’t been our method of work. If this issue hadn’t been an agenda item with reports and motions and seconds. If that meeting had just been a gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ, listening closely to the needs of one another, praying over the wounds, discerning how to show compassionate at that moment and how help keep similar events from happening in the future. If there had been less fear and more fellowship.

What would that relationship look like today? What would my family look like today?

I don’t know. I’m a pretty creative gal, and I can’t imagine it. But as I try to find my way through to good and proper reconciliation, this new awareness will help. And as I prepare for ordained ministry and church leadership, it will definitely color the way I approach meetings and conflict resolution.

Thanks, Dr. C

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