Sunday, April 23, 2006

General Board of Church and Society Meeting - Reflections, Part 1

I’ve been in DC this week at the Spring meeting of the General Board of Church and Society, which is my excuse for my lack of posts this week. I have several posts mentally written in my mind – Holy Week reflections, a theatre review, two book reviews, etc., but so far they remain in the mind and not on the screen.

The board meeting went well, quickly. I always enjoy being here, and I always feel challenged and inspired by talking about the work we are doing in the church for justice. I will use a few posts to share some highlights with you. Jim Winkler opened with his General Secretary’s report, which I will come to in a later post when I can link to the text on the GBCS site. I always enjoy his reports and his eloquent presentation of our work.

As a side note, I also met John Lomperis, IRD staff, in person today, after knowing his name from long reading his comments often over at Shane’s blog. I’m reminded of taking my doctrine and polity classes online in seminary and then one day running into the professor on campus – a real person! Sometimes after hanging out in the world of blogging I’m surprised to run into the actual real-life people.

On Friday, we spent a session as the board with Rev. Eric H. F. Law, a consultant/trainer who helps religious institutions and other groups deal with issues of cultural diversity. (Rev. Willy, I think, asked about how/if we did this work before – we’re still working on it!) Eric led us through a time of learning how we talk to one another – really talk and share and engage in meaningful conversation and dialogue – when we have such differing theological views, have power issues, have issues of race and gender, etc., that keep us from feeling safe and open and willing to share. He shared with us his working definition of inclusivity – not an “anything goes” model, but instead that a group is inclusive when it acts openly when its ‘boundaries’ are being challenged.

He also talked to us about the “Cycle of Gospel Living.” He proposed that the entry point into the cycle of gospel living for the powerless is empowerment and endurance moving to a focus on the empty tomb, resurrection, but that the entry for the powerful in the cycle is in the act of giving up power and choosing the cross, focusing on the cross and death. We talked about how difficult it is for the powerful to give up power. Isn’t this true? All of us have different kinds of power, and I have yet to find many who want to give up the power they have, including myself. We’d like others to have power, but not if we have to give power up for them to get it.

Continuing in the same theme in some ways, Saturday morning in our daily opening worship, Rev. Ricarte Rapisura, board member from the Philippines, gave a sermon based on 2 Corinthians 5:14-17. He focused on the continuing abductions and murders of human rights workers in the Philippines. He shared about the countless young adults workers who have been victims of these crimes, but that the workers remain unwilling to give up their work, even in the face of such a dangerous climate. I have to admit that I doubt that I would be able to be so brave, so committed, when it came to a threat on my own life. I could be so brave if I was protecting the lives of my family or loved ones. I hope I could be so brave in protecting the lives of those with whom I did not have such connections. Could I be so brave as to give my life for beliefs? For the cause of human rights? For the hope of social change? I’m not sure, and I admire such dedication.

I have a lot more to write about, but I wanted to conclude this post by letting you know that I got to worship today at Foundry UMC, where Dean Snyder is the pastor. I got to meet Dean in person, and told him we all missed him/wondered where he was in the blogosphere these days (as if he didn't have enough to think about with hundreds of people trying to greet him on the way out the door). He said he's thinking about coming back, so we'll see. It was great to worship at Foundry after hearing so much about it. A small detail I really liked: Dean asked during sharing time for individuals to commit right then and there to visit folks whose names he lifted up. I really liked that approach - everybody becomes part of congregational care.
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