16 March 2008

Living Together

Following on from my post below entitled A Challenge of Tolerance?, my my friend Will asks a very important question: How now shall we live together?

Will says something that I think is vitally important:
I quite like the Derby Resolutions. As a friend of mine said, they were created for a purpose and not just because some people were bored one afternoon. But, perhaps the document that kept The Methodist Church from the tumult experienced in the Church of England has now outlived its useful life. Where do we go from here? I want a conversation that focuses on how we can trust each other enough to stick together. More than that, stay in fellowship with each other. Where can we have a conversation that attempts to work out how we will be a community of grace without digressing back into old arguments. How can we start to ask the question, ‘How can we live together?’
I actually think the most important thing that any denomination can do is to learn to have a conversation about this issue and other issues that passionately divide us.

I think that many people often misunderstand this as 'Anything for a quiet life' or 'Anything goes'. That's not what I'm talking about. I think that learning how to listen to to each other when we passionately disagree is at the very centre of Christian discipleship. Not at the centre of salvation, but at the centre of discipleship. When passions are high, the process of listening and forgiving and making room for the other view is difficult and painful. Rather than painful listening most of us - myself included - tend to go for avoidance; and avoidance is probably more the 'anything for a quiet life' option.

I don't know what the answer is, but I think 'How can we live together?' is one of the most important questions we face. And we'll have to figure it out sooner or later.


Rev Tony B said...

I think you're right about learning to live together, but I'm not sure we're in a position to leave the Derby Resolutions behind - unless we can come up with something which achieves the same balancing act.

I was at Derby, and it was one of the scariest but most uplifting sessions of Confernce ever. I saw the Church face the likelihood of schism, reject the proposed resolutions which would have caused it, and find a way to stay together, no matter how uncomfortable.

At the time, I didn't believe homosexuality was a viable Christian lifestyle. Since then, I have argued and discussed in various places, and have come to the conclusion that my understanding of the biblical material was wrong. What was more important to me, however, was the pastoral issue: whatever our views on sexuality, how do we deal pastorally and positively with gay Christians? Which is why I am saddened by your anecdote about gay Christians being asked to leave a church. If the congregation had the courage to acceptvhem, they'd learn more about grace and more about themselves.

Having said that, I can see that it might have been a pastorally positive thing to direct them to a church where they may have found a better welcome (although I'm not sure from your anecdote that was what was happening). As long as such tensions remain, we need Derby.

PamBG said...

Tony, my point isn't really 'anti-Derby'.

I think I'm saying that I think it's actually more a mark of good discipleship if we can talk about the tough issues and come to some kind of reconciliation than if we split from each other because 'they' aren't worried enough about holiness or justice.

I think I've met a number of people in the Methodist Church who hold these views.

I don't know that I'm necessarily calling for the issues to be aired right now, but I don't think we can sweep them under the carpet forever.

Doorman-Priest said...

A conversation is one thing. A grown-up conversation is quite another, sadly.

Fat Prophet said...

The way we treat people in general often leaves a lot to be desired and sometimes it strikes me if folk don't fit our 'picture' of what is right and proper then they will never fit in with the church. Surely these were the very people that Jesus would be found with - the outcasts and the sinners!
In respect of the Derby Resolutions I wonder how many of our members even have any concept of what they are - was the information ever disseminated and if it was how well? I see things that are discussed and decided on at circuit meetings which do not always get back to the individual members of the church so what hope is there for stuff from conference getting fed back.
I really do believe the whole issue of how we relate to people who may not conform to our idea of normal is important. For me each person is a person first and anything else is not all that important - get to know the person and maybe some of the preconceived ideas we have about people with different views and lifestyles to ours will disappear.
I have know someone for many years who is a really nice person and they have recently 'come out' and met with some adverse reaction but I said to them it makes no difference to what I think because they are no different a person to what they have been for all the years I have known them. To be honest unless someone is given a particular label how do we know what their lifestyle is and given the statistics I read recently that one in three people are 'gay' how many of our circle of friends and acquaintances fit into this statistic?
I do not normally get into the theological arguments for things as I know there are people with a far greater theological knowledge that me, but I do wonder if our theology is sometimes off beam and whether we need to remember that much of what Paul wrote for instance would be relevant to the time he lived in but may not be quite so appropriate for today. After all said and done if we followed all of Paul's writing Pam would not be a minister and would have to sit with her hat on and keep quiet - how much poorer would the church be if Pam and others like her had to toe the Paul line?

PamBG said...

Thanks, fatprophet. I think that genuinely getting to know people is very important. People of all 'stripes' and all opinions. Usually people's lives are conducted the best they know how, whatever their views.