Reconciling Irreconcilable Differences

by | Feb 27, 2019 | 8 comments

By now you know that it was a brutal General Conference. Personally, I was in favor of the One Church Plan. I thought it was a gracious acknowledgment of our varying cultural contexts, biblical sensibilities, and deeply held convictions. It didn’t pronounce each other wrong or right. It was a way to let each other be. Without judgement.

That plan failed, discouragingly. Much goodwill and hope disappeared along with it. Good people have been deeply hurt. Some will leave the church. Others will stay and resist. Still others are bewildered, unsure of what to do. Finally, others are satisfied with the outcome.
I am Facebook friends with people across the theological spectrum. While glancing at other people’s Facebook pages, I’ve noticed that One Church Plan supporters have been labeled everything from humanist to non-Biblical. The Traditionalist Plan folks have been labeled anti-love and anti-gay.
Going forward, how do you do ministry when you don’t see eye to eye? Not only with other delegates from around the world, but with people in your very own conference, district, and congregation? How can you reconcile seemingly irreconcilable differences?
I’m going to share three options and two offers for moving forward.

  1. Get mad.Righteous anger can be a good thing. It can fuel you with new courage and empower you to take actions that once seemed impossible. It can also blind you to possibilities. And cause you to hurt others or trample on other people’s humanity.
  2. Get defeated.“Clearly they don’t want me, so I’m out of here.” Being so hurt that you can’t take action can allow you to retreat from a painful, hurtful arena. You are able to nurse your wounds, consider your options, and find the next right choice. Far from the hurtful arena.   On the other hand, everywhere you go, there you are. Leaving with hurt in your heart will haunt you. Avoiding getting hurt in the future will be your driving motive and plant you firmly in victim mode. Decisions made from a victim-stance are less likely to be empowering for you in the long run.
  3. Get savvy.It’s human nature to frame other people’s decisions in light of your own decision-making context. For instance: I stand in support of full inclusion of LGBTQIA folks in the life and leadership of our churches. Therefore, if you don’t believe/vote the way I do, then you are against this deeply held principle of mine. You are anti-LGBTQIA, or anti-love of all people.

Or this: I treasure the words of the Bible and try to uphold my understanding of it in all that I do. Therefore, if you don’t vote the way I do, then you don’t love or respect the Bible. You are anti-God or anti-purity or unholy.
Either way, “those people” become the enemy. This is why Jesus said “Judge not lest you be judged.” Judging leads only to enemy-making.
Here’s a healthy way to get savvy. Don’t make their decisions (whoever “they” are) about you and your deeply held values. They’re not about you. Their decisions are about them. Their decisions arise from their own decision-making context.
It’s hard to do this, I know. But it’s also crucial to your long-term well-being. Otherwise you land in rage mode, victim mode or enemy mode. None of those are helpful long term. And none of those get you where you really want to go—able to live out your values with a clear and open heart.
Not sure how to do any of this? Join us in The Listening Room all next week: March 4-8, Noon-1pm, Mountain Time. This will be a constructive place to vent, grieve, pray, consider next steps or plan what to say to your people. The Listening Room will be hosted by myself, our Creating a Culture of Renewal Faculty and our Staff. Email us here for a Zoom invite. Then mark your calendar and plan to join. We’ll have breakout rooms so you can have privacy if you need it.
Also, don’t forget our March 1 webinar: Does Your Church Dream Like Jesus? This is an opportunity to discover whether your church leads with a Jesus-like dream or not. And what you can do about it. We’ll meet from 11am-Noon Mountain Time.   Email us here for a Zoom invite.
Finally, I want you to know that ALL persons are welcome and invited into the Creating a Culture of Renewal network. No questions asked. We are open to the whole of the church. Conservative, centrist, progressive. Straight, gay, questioning. Life-long Methodists and newbies. The confident and the confounded. High church or high Christology as well as low church or low Christology.   We welcome you regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity, theology, conference, jurisdiction, beliefs, biblical hermeneutic, or General Conference votes for that matter.  Creating a Culture of Renewal creates a safe space for all church leaders to find their voice, claim their calling, and manifest their Jesus-like dreams.

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  1. Denise Anderberg

    Some good comments on a sensitive subject for many.
    I agree that a Culture of Renewal is a “safe place”. I want to believe that if we truly desire to dream like Jesus, we will acknowledge that Jesus would say that our Father loves all His creation.
    I am saddened that many were hurt/disappointed about the conference, I think we knew that would happen which ever way the vote went. I continue to pray for the body of Christ, as a whole, and they continue to love not just according to the Golden Rule, but in the spirit of the Platinum Rule as well.

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Thanks for highlighting the Platinum Rule, Denise. In this case, when it comes to the Platinum Rule (treat others the way they want to be treated or perhaps understand where other people are coming from), it may not be about DiSC styles, but biblical hermeneutics and cultural contexts. Equally important.

  2. Lynn Reece (Indio)

    Thanks Rebbeca.
    I’m trying to figure out where my response falls. I’m disappointed for many reasons. And yet, fully at peace and hopeful because I am confident that God is at work in this. I learned a long time ago that I don’t need to know all the details of what lies ahead … I just have to trust that God won’t lead me astray. So now I’m trying to pay attention to God’s guidance for my (and my church’s) way forward.
    It is great planning (on God’s part) that our church has already planned a 21- day of prayer and discernment in March.
    At the moment my heart is burdened with how we can admit to, and ask for forgiveness for, the harm we have done through our arrogance and legislative posturing.

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      I hear you Lynn. There is much to discern as we go along.

  3. Ms. M

    I came right to your email, when I heard to see what wisdom you had for us. Thank you Rebekah.

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      You’re welcome.

  4. Kathryn Johnson

    I am concerned that the possible options you list in response to GC do not mention the possibility that choosing to leave the UMC may be a life-giving, loving, healthy choice. You make no claim that your list is exhaustive, but I believe it is important to include this option in any list, short or long.
    Some find the abuse they receive from the UMC intolerable. Choosing to leave the denomination for another setting can certainly be a liberating, healthy choice. The parent who does not wish to raise their trans child in a church that declares his personhood “less than” may be making a life-affirming choice where family members will feel safe. No one in the family need feel victimized as you suggest. The gay clergyperson who leaves to affiliate with a denomination that affirms her gifts for ordained service without reservation (or threat of punishment) is certainly not playing the victim.
    Finally, saying that you welcome all the participate in Creating A Culture of Renewal does not necessarily make it a safe space. With the new definitions and punishments that were adopted at GC 2019 (should they stand) an LGBTQIA person is not safe in a setting which does not guard against including those who have the power to inflict harm and punishment.
    Thanks for listening. Kathryn

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Hi Kathryn, I agree that leaving the denomination is a life-giving option. That will be the right choice for many. In my article I am trying to address the “how” a person chooses to respond, not the “what” of their response. I am concerned that people make choices from an empowered stance, not a disempowered one. Whatever the choice may be. Coming from an empowered place gives one the freedom to freely choose in the future. Coming from a disempowered place will hamper that ability. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.



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