I’m back from our synod convention convention where we elected a new bishop.
The convention started out tense. There weren't the exuberant reunions that we often see when we arrive at these things. Things were tense. Ugly tense. As one pastor put it, “People [were] holding their cards close to their chest.”
It only took three ballots before a winner was announced. No surprises. He was expected to win. But I thought there’d be more deliberations, speeches, and/or questions from and for the top candidates.
I’m pleased with our new bishop. He’ll do an excellent job. He’s smart, compassionate, and moderate. He knows the workings of the church, and has a keen sense of the gospel.
I was nominated for a position on synod council, the governing board of our synod. I was surprised by how disappointed I was that I lost. The pastor who was elected will do a fine job on the council, but I guess I had more invested in the outcome than I expected.
But, of course, the best parts of these things is after the convention work is done, and we slip to the pub or to someone’s room for a libation or two (or three), and to solve the problems of the church and the world.
I have a love/hate relationship with church conventions. I love them because this is the only time the whole church family gathers and makes important decisions. I hate them because too often the decision making process can be fraught with acrimony.
Our church family is incredibly diverse. Almost painfully so. While many say that there is strength in diversity, too often our differences cause more pain than bring strength. I fear for our future unity.
Some hardline members of the church’s right wing suggest openly that their fellow clergy have lost their salvation and are destined for the fires of hell. Some on the far left of the church, who so often preach compassion and mercy toward neighbour and enemy, speak uncompassionately and unmercifully toward those who disagree with their support of the blessing of same-sex unions.
Maybe what I’m saying is that we are human. The only difference between us and the rest of the world is that Jesus has called us to be lights for the world. Jesus has called us to be united in faith and purpose. This unity is not to be taken lightly or dismissed as a frill, something that would be nice.
But I believe that Christian unity is more important than church doctrine. In fact, unity should be among our core doctrines. Jesus called us into community, not just with those with whom we agree. But with everyone he calls his disciples. I can imagine what Simon the Zealot had to say to Matthew the Tax Collector, the revolutionary and the collaborator.
But maybe that’s the witness that Jesus wants us to offer to the world, a world where division defines people, where people know more about what they’re against rather than what they’re for, where differences are met with hostility, the church can stand and say, “Even though we will disagree about same-sex blessings, even if we can’t figure out just how we are going to interpret the bible, even though we drive each other crazy and and the poison of our anger flows through to our bones, we will still be one church, because baptism trumps everything the world throws at us.
NB: UPDATED for grammar and spelling. Look for more similar updates.