what's your position on?

may we lay down our positions

truth be told, i have a lot of pet peeves. i can’t stand when people slurp when they drink out of a cup (worse than nails on a chalkboard for me), snow (that’s not in the mountains when i’m skiing) bugs the $*#^!&! out of me, and when i hear someone say “we let women lead” i go a little nuts inside. but my new #1 pet peeve at the moment is when people ask the question:  what’s your position on _________?  (homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, gun control, hell, you name it). it’s the question of the moment not only for many church or ministry leaders but on facebook, blogs, and in certain christian circles.

we all know what that really means.

how can i determine whether i am aligned with you or not aligned with you?

how can i know if you’re on our team or the other one?

how can i sniff out whether i can trust you or not?

please know i am not saying we should never ask questions that help us understand where other people are coming from or share our perspectives freely.  it’s great to have deeper dignified dialogue despite our differences and own our opinions. however, my experience with the question “what’s your position on?” is that it usually ends up in a dead-end where things become black or white, on or off,  in or out, i-still-respect-you or i-am-not-so-sure-i-can-anymore.

there are many other better, more thoughtful questions that could be asked instead, like:

how are you navigating some of these complicated issues in your own life and soul?  in your community?

how are you wrestling with Jesus’ ways through these tensions? 

what are you learning about yourself as you wrestle with them? about God? about others? 

how are you seeing God at work in your life, in the lives of those around you?

how are you participating in bringing people together around hard topics and creating safe places to share?  

and most importantly:  how are you actually loving your neighbors these days? 

when i think of Jesus’ interactions with the pharisees, i see them constantly chiding him with the same question:  “what’s your position on…?” over and over, they were trying to pin him down, and he did not give them the kind of black and white answer they anticipated. instead, he kept reminding them that their addiction to the law was really a waste of time in a kingdom economy. he responded with better, deeper questions that were tough to answer and required hearts not minds.

our obsession with positions is a great distraction.

the world is crying out for hope while we’re talking about theology.

we are spending an awful lot of energy building camps and erecting walls, thinking unity is uniformity. it’s not.

[quote type=”center”]true unity is living in the tension of a lot of different positions and still loving each other. it’s standing shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and eye to eye in relationship with people who see important things differently but respecting their perspectives and theological conclusions.[/quote]

it’s letting go of needing to control other people or work our agenda.  it’s remaining secure in what God is stirring up in our hearts and let others hold to what he’s stirring up in them. it’s owning and respecting that others can still be hearing from God in their way, even if it is on different sides of an issue. as parker palmer so wisely says, “the highest form of love is the love that allows for intimacy without the annihilation of difference.”

when it’s all said and done, the question “what’s your position on _____?” will never get us anywhere.  it’ll keep us stuck. it’ll keep us divided. it’ll keep perpetuating homogeneous groups that swing to the left or to the right. it’ll keep killing off more & more people’s desire to even be part of christianity anymore.

my hope, my heart, is that we can individually and corporately ask better questions and have better conversations, that we can allow room for wide and beautiful differences but still live under the same tent. that we can clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” and over all things “put on love, which binds us all together in perfect unity” (colossians 3: 12, 14).

i’m so grateful to be part of a community that is trying to do this as best we can. it’s messy, it’s tricky, it’s uncomfortable, and all of the effort it takes kicks our butts some days more than others. but the more i see it in action, the more i know it’s the right direction for the future. there’s a whole new generation of men & women of all ages, shapes & sizes who aren’t looking for comfortable but are hoping to find spaces and places to wrestle with our personal views on tough issues and not be fed “right” answers.

uniformity might look stronger and cleaner on the surface, but its very foundation on rightness & pride is faulty.  

unity might look weird and tangled and confusing on the surface, but underneath it’s incredibly strong and powerful.  

please, may we lay down our need to know people’s positions and instead find ways to know people’s hearts.

that’s worth fighting for.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

38 Comments

  • There’s so much to love and requote in this post that I don’t know where to begin. Maybe the ending: “lay down our need to know people’s positions and instead find ways to know people’s hearts.”

    That’s a lesson we all need to practice more. Instead of talking about ___, go deeper than the issue by having a real conversation with a real person underneath the issue.

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    • thanks, lisa. that’s the word i really like–“practice” this is tough stuff and we won’t be able to just magically wake up one day doing it well but the way to get better at it is to try…i appreciate your thoughts!

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  • Yes and we know tht such questions were being asked of Jesus in the light people plotting to kill him and to trip him up on any mtter of the Law. I love the way he engaged with tht and have just written recently bout this in my Masters dissertation by way of arguing for looking at such things by way of humour in what Jesus is doing. Him statirising the Law or others attpts at appliction of the Lw to rrip him up. Wors like staining gnats and swollowing camels, whitewashed tombs etc.

    I like the kind of questions you are asking Kathy, the seem more conucive to discussio, reasoning things through than ones that woudl attempt to put a person into one camp or the other. Conservative Evangelical / Liberal Progressive, Republican / Deocrat, Christina / Muslim, Jew / Gentile etc. Waht I have leadrnt for huan nature id the natrural tendency is to look to others who are like minded ore has similr life expereinces, worldviews etc for a sense of belonging. Then withitn that group theres is belonging, nd connection that we all like. To speak with a differeing worldview to the common one helad means to risk rejection, diapproval. And each “tribe” is naturally hostile to other tribes. We see that in the news and throughout human history. So yes uniformity pride rightness (as the group defines right) in that. And unity being different – there my be diversity in ith which supercficially make it look disunified, chaotic even but undrpinning all of that the depth of connection and balonging.

    What makes me laugh sometimes is I can have a robust debate or fun with banter with folks soetimes because of the bond I have formed with them where to causual onlookers it appears that wer are arguing and don’t like each other. I see to the look of releif on the onlookers faces when I explain the reason why we can debate and banter togehter like that and bothh enjoy it ironically is because there is bond of love between us. I beleive that is what was happening with Jesus and the Canaanite women when he called her a dog not wothy of the food for the children on the materst table. And she said yes she was, for dogs get the food too albeit the crumbs. I think he was delighted with her faith, and she was delighted because her daughter was made well. And I think the dog reference was used ironically and powerfully to make fun at the expence of the culture that woud refer to a gentile as a dog and to underine such prejudice.

    OK I’ll stop there befor I go on too uch about similar stuff I am doing with my dissertatiion – I’m passionate and have fun with this stuff 🙂

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  • Thank you, Kathy, for your wisdom and your heart. So many are caught up in being in that ‘homogenous’ group and around others who look and think the same way they do. I was one of them for a very long time! But we miss out on what others have to offer when we only look for people just like us. I now love being around a lot of different people – from all backgrounds and lifestyles. Even (gasp!) non-Christians! God is alive and at work in so many different ways!

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  • “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”” (John 13:34–35, NLT)

    ” … your love … will prove … “

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  • You know I am a fan of this! I think that the line of thinking of knowing that perhaps you differ from a line of thinking that is popular in some Christian circles is the beginning of a spiritual rut-roh. At least it was for me!

    I knew when I started to internally question some things that I was hyper aware that some of the things could come up in conversation and I would be toast. And I also recall feeling somehow safer if my server at a restuarant somehow disclosed he/she was a Christian. Because you know the quality of my Diet Dr. Pepper was at stake if not.

    So grateful for freedom now!

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  • Oh PS – I wonder if you include the French insults in what you say about perpetuating homogenous groups. “Your mother was a hampster and your father smelled of eldeberries – now go away or I shall taunt you some more” *wink*.

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  • Kathy – I love your heart and think you are so full of wisdom and so I have to seriously question myself anytime I’m not in complete agreement with you and this is one of those times.

    I am the first to say that I might be wrong but because I have a son who is gay and have put myself in a position in recent years to listen to tons of lgbt people, mostly lgbt people who are or were Christians, I just want to toss out the idea that “what is your position” may be the right question for lgbt Christians (and maybe even for those who are their advocates) to ask.

    The reason I say that is because they have experienced so much harm and abuse by Christians who are not affirming and love to say “love the sinner, hate the sin” that they want to be careful about who and what they expose themselves to.

    Many of these people are damaged to the point that they will live with the scars of abuse for the rest of their life and certain triggers can send them into weeks and months of despair that make it difficult for them to function enough to even care for themselves.

    Some may cope better emotionally but have lost their faith due to the treatment they received at the hands of the church and Christians.

    And others may know themselves well enough or have had enough bad experiences at churches that they just need to know what they are getting into.

    One story that demonstrates the frustration of lgbt Christians is from a gay man in his 20s who had attended a church for almost a year when it became clear to him that he should have asked about the churches “position”. He had not hidden the fact that he was gay and he thought he was welcome there even though he had never tried to find out if there was a particular position regarding his sexual orientation. He knew that there were a variety of positions among the members there but the church had never stated a position one way or the other and seemed to welcome lgbt people. Eventually this young man met someone and started dating. One of the members heard someone ask him how his date went and complained to the pastor because she overheard the conversation when he was volunteering at the welcome desk and didn’t think it was a “good witness” – even though nothing inappropriate was said. The pastor ended up telling the young man that he could no longer be a volunteer servant. Of course he left the church and I am not sure if he attends any church any longer but I do know he felt like he wouldn’t want to ever attend another church without first knowing if he would be treated differently than a person in an opposite sex relationship.

    The only other thing I would add is that these days a lot of pastors end up talking about same sex relationships from the pulpit and most of the lgbt Christians I have talked to find it very painful to listen to a sermon that includes condemning or disapproving of same sex relationships.

    I guess what I am saying is that it may be a lot easier for straight people to say they don’t want to state a position. When my friends who are lesbians enter a church together with their two children and introduce one another as “this is my wife and two daughters” their position is already stated and they have a lot to consider when it comes to sending their daughters into a children’s program where they may be asked a question that requires them to say something about having two mommies.
    Life can be very complicated for those who aren’t straight these days and can include scenarios that most of us straight people have never imagined.

    I look forward to some feedback regarding my thoughts.

    Much love to you and thanks so much for all you do.

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    • oh liz, i am so grateful for your sharing! and i really agree with you all the way, that it is so important to have clarity instead of deception. you know i am a full supporter of LGBQT equality and will always do what i can to advocate on behalf of change. but i also am really sad at how we have created homogeneous groups on one side of the other. i understand why, though, and i do believe wholeheartedly that when you are on the underside of injustice that there are some things that aren’t fair to ask of someone. but i do also know a lot of really dear and amazing people who aren’t in the camp of full affirmation but want to be able to hold their view, too, as they wrestle and learn. it’s so hard when we then separate and then never have those conversations because of all of the hurt and unsafety. i do believe knowing what a community’s position on it is important so people know; i am just sad how that question has become the leading one in conversations far beyond just the safety of a community. it matters deeply to “know” and i don’t want to dismiss that in the slightest. the refuge is really dedicated to being a community who’s position is that we hold differing positions in tension. it’s pretty hard, though, and i think that there is a cost to it that isn’t to be ignored. it means it might not be safe enough for some gay friends who can’t feel fully accepted by everyone even though it’s by most, and it also means not feeling safe enough for those who are from a more conservative persuasion and want things to be more clearly defined. in the end, i do just hope we can keep having the conversations and respect how much deep pain is in this reality of how God’s children have been treated–you know that first hand–and the church has been the worst and most horrid wounder of so many dear people. i am so sad about this. the path to healing definitely comes through safe and beautiful relationships. that’s my morning ramble, and i really appreciate your thoughts and challenge. it needs to be said.

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      • Kathy – thanks so much for your spirit of generosity. I certainly need and value that and I like the way you encourage us all to embrace and practice a generous orthodoxy. This piece and our exchange is reminding me to be more mindful and committed to being generous. Being an open and out loud advocate for my son and my lgbt friends means that I sometimes get approached in a less than loving way and that can certainly cause me to allow my caution to turn into a wall. It’s definitely a balancing act and it’s not unusual for me to find myself tipping the scales too far one way. Thanks for challenging me to be a safe person for those who think differently than I do.

        I certainly don’t want to put myself in a position of not being in relationship with people that I don’t agree with me – but I do want to make sure that I’m hanging with people who don’t treat lgbt people like they are second class Christians or that their same sex relationships, marriages and families are more broken or less than.

        Living in Texas and coming from a conservative evangelical background I’m still in relationship (the ones who haven’t rejected me) with many people who disagree with me about most of the issues you mentioned in your piece. I find it interesting that no one has ever stopped being friends with me because of my position on gun laws or because I voted for Obama or even because I think women should be able to be ordained; but the fact that I don’t think that same sex relationships are wrong and don’t believe scripture condemns loving, monogamous same sex relationships seems to push many over the edge to the point that they no longer want to be my friend. It’s been very painful.

        I know you and your heart and even feel like I know your faith community and I can see how and why it must feel disrespectful or political or selfish for people to ask the “what’s your position” question. I certainly understand why it is a pet peeve. But due to the way the way I’ve been treated in recent years and seen lgbt Christians be treated I (and many like me) are going to continue (for a while) to need to ask the “what’s your position” question. Hopefully we can find ways to ask that will be kind and generous.

        I certainly don’t need to be “fully accepted by everyone” but I do need to know that people in same sex relationships and marriages won’t be disqualified from serving, won’t be told in sermons and bible studies that their relationships are evil or an abomination and won’t be treated like they aren’t serious, committed followers of Jesus Christ.

        I’m sad that I need to know those things. I wish I could take it for granted that I didn’t need to be concerned about those things, but unfortunately that is not the case. It’s not that I need everyone to be on my side or in my camp. I just need to know that that lgbt people and straight people who don’t believe same sex relationships are wrong are not going to be oppressed or marginalized.

        Obviously I don’t think that would happen in your community but I know you. So, I guess I’m just wondering if maybe all the “what’s your position” questions aren’t necessarily equal. Maybe some of them aren’t just about people wanting to only hang with those who completely agree with them and more about just wanting to make sure that they aren’t investing in people and communities that will end up rejecting them if they don’t conform to a particular belief or don’t fully accept them until they conform to a particular belief. Does that make sense?

        So… I am wrestling with what a faith community that wouldn’t oppress or marginalize people in same sex relationships but also wants to create a safe place for those who think same sex relationships are wrong would look like.

        Could my son, who is: gay, in a same sex relationship and a long time follower of Jesus Christ serve in the same capacity that I can as a woman who is straight and married to a man?

        What would happen if someone complained about a lesbian who is married to another lesbian serving in some capacity?

        What would a child with two mommies or two daddies be taught about what a God honoring family looks like?

        This is where my mind jumps to when I hear the “no position” position talked about regarding homosexuality and same sex marriage. I’m trying to figure out what happens when real live people and their real live situations happen.

        PS I know you can’t hear my tone of voice in writing but please know that there is no animosity in my words. This is a very real thing for some of us and we do want to be reasonable and respectful, but we are weary of getting hurt. I really wrestle with this stuff and really want to have productive conversations and get feedback. Thanks for making a space for that here on your blog.

        If this is not something you want to have discussed here please feel free to let me know. I respect you and don’t want to do or say anything that would be out of line.

        Reply
        • Amen!

          The stakes are too high for me to accept everyone with whom I come in contact, particularly in church settings. The only way I can survive is through repression of self and keeping my mouth shut. Were I to raise my voice, I would be asked to be more gracious, more forgiving, more “loving”.

          This sort of church is also a church that doesn’t like anger, except as expressed by heterosexual (often white) men in positions of leadership against abstracted Enemies of the Faith, who may or may not be in the pew next to you. I am tired of tension. Saying that everyone’s point of view is okay as long as we are singing Jesus’ praises together doesn’t work for me. It just transfers the struggle from the outside to the inside, and while the greater jihad is within the self, it also eats away at your soul and your faith. Different points of view theologically (especially those of the clergy) DO affect the way we treat the world crying out for hope. A theology not based in praxis means nothing. Inaction is a praxis that serves the oppressor. Perhaps the arguing in itself does not serve God, but the issues have consequences that affect people’s bodies and souls.

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          • Gina – I love what you wrote here and agree that “let’s just all get along and praise Jesus” is not a philosophy that will create a healthy vibrant community. I also know Kathy well enough to know that isn’t the kind of community that she is a part of or wants to create. She is willing to (and even wants to) be in a community where people are real and authentic and open. It’s messy but she is willing to do messy. I think what she is saying here is that she thinks the question “what is your position” is getting in the way of unity and that unity should not be about conformity. What I am questioning is if some things are important enough that they trump unity? I know the danger in that is that we all will want to make “our thing” the thing that trumps unity and yet I can’t help but believe that there are some things that we already find so conflicting with the message of Jesus that we do take a stand/position. And I think (I’m still processing it) I see the issue about same sex relationships as one of those things. And you may have hit on something that helps express why I think it is one of those things when you said that our theological view affects the way we treat the world AND that inaction (or no position) can end up being a practice that supports oppressors (I’m paraphrasing you).

            That is very helpful to me as I think through this.

          • thank you so much for all of your questions and thoughts and walking through this reality out loud. it’s so complicated in so many ways when we are talking about deep roots of injustice and pain. i believe wholeheartedly that it’s sometimes too much to ask—to be in a place where some disagree theologically on core issues of sexuality and it will not be safe enough. when it comes to the refuge, we have taken a big hit for the sake of equality with many people. it’s a reason quite a few people from a more conservative persuasion have left over the years–they can’t hang with our friends and live in a place where there are varying views on homosexuality. at the same time, i know it’s hard for some gay friends to know that some people disagree with same-sex marriage and it’s painful. when there are enough advocates, it definitely seems to make all the difference but that’s a tough reality. for me, it’s a hill i will die on for sure but i keep learning about what it means to find ways to stand next to each other in our differences and build a kind of respect and love for each other that is healing for all. i was with a dear lesbian couple this weekend who are struggling with feeling fully accepted in their christian family, and i felt that familiar surge of anger and sadness at the reality of the damage for them. and our responsibility as some members of the refuge community to be that safe family. we cannot be silent, and unity sure doesn’t mean that. i am so grateful for you and the way you love your son so well and are an advocate for so many! it is why “what’s your position on?” can be an important question to get clarity on.xoxo

          • Thanks, Kathy. Your commitment to finding ways for people to stand next to each other in our differences with respect and love is beautiful. I continue to learn so much from you.

    • Kathy, Liz, Can i just say to both of you how impressed I am at how you both have engaged with consideration for both conservative evangelical and LBGT expereinces and the spirit in which you have conversed.

      It’s things like this that I am touched by and make me want to keep coming back here 🙂

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      • Adam – thank you for the kind words. Kathy has been an amazing role model for me. She is authentic but always kind and generous with everyone.

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        • Liz – thank you for your reply and you are welcome :).

          I’ve been thinking a littel about this blog here today. One of the things I find very difficult in terms of engaging in conversation is where there are issues to do with gender.

          Having had evepreinces both in my personal and church life that have been difficult for me involving a woman in a position of power where I am powerless, it is painful for me to read about expectation for men and women in postions of power to be provided for women without power, and yet not equally the same be true for men without power. I understand the patriachal nature of society that would leind itself to such attention, yet it seems to me that equality means equally attenfing to both men and women’s need.

          I have found in terms of advoccy for myself in such situations, it is not forthcoming. And I even get the double whammy of, as a man the perconception being that I am the one in a position of power making a vitim out of a woman when the reality has been the other way around. It makes me afraind to engage in conversations of this like. Yet I know Kathy has shared feelign under pressure to be “the good Christian woman” and not giving into that, so not dissimilarly I wouldn’t givin in to fear to be the “nice guy” but give freedom to my voice likewise. I’ve learnt tht sometimes courage is about doing something in spite of fear.

          After much consideration, pain and many robust discussions, what I have found is that what works bast for me is in trusting and lettign in perfect love that casts out all fear. And that even if the whole world is against me when I know do something right, I am blessed for God is with me and in that is the Sprit of power love and sound mind for my advocacy. Althougth it is a lonely road to walk when I am the only voice that speaks of certain things. I’ve learnt that not everybody is pleased with that, even thougth they would call themselves “Christian”. And that’s OK, I extend the same grace to them which is given to me when I don’t act in ways that honour Christ.

          I would love to able to have conversations like you and Kathy have hade even thoguht there may be disageement and even strong agreement at times. But it seems to me, that to avoid more pain for me and conflict with outhers, mens keeping both my heart guarded, and my tongue reinged in on this iissue which unfrotunatley pulically means I don’t have a voice in such matters in discusssions and debates. This is a sourece of frustration for me, but my hope is that culture will change and there will be a time where alll of us will be able to do what Kathy is passionate about with mutual submission and fighting for each other, centred on love and Christ and for his glory and the kingdom’s sake.

          But until then power stuggles will still go on with the inevitable consequenses with people being worn out and wounded by such. Despite sometimes best efforts to the contrary, church history is laced with such. Sadly, that is the reality of the world we live in.

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          • Adam, I empathize with your experience of not feeling safe and/or comfortable about sharing your thoughts and opinions and feelings and how frustrating it can be. I guess the best we can do is what we have done here … find a safe place and engage with each other with grace and kindness and patience even in the midst of disagreement.

          • Yes, do what we have done here and within the limit of what is possible online. No substitute for being there in person. What I respect about Kathy is what she shows with fostering the environemtn here where although there of course will be disagreement that there can also be a place with what you say about kindness, patience and grace and not giving up when things get tough but enduring it.

            If we had that kind of thing in other enviroments – churchs, work with frineds, family etc I can imagine it coming into being that the heaven that Jesus talks of being in each one of us becoming real and beauty, release humility etc coming fomr that.

            What I find helps also is what Jesus said about guarding your heart and the armour of God for when things are not so safe. And accepting that we don’t always get things right which is where compassion comes in. And that’s OK – if i was perfect, that would be no fun. I couldn’t make fun out of the crazy thigns I do and preteneses I exhibit and laugh with others who know that they aren’t perfect either and are just the same in this regard. It’s the ones who can’t laugh at this kind of thing that are the ones to be wary of *wink*

  • Kathy – I know where both you and Liz are coming from. Trying to nail us down on exactly what our position is on many of these hot button issues (with the presumption that there is one and only one correct position) is kinda nutso in many cases, and reeks of many ancient heresies. I’m thinking Gnosticism, which as I understand it seemed to think that having the right knowledge (usually the secret knowledge of the few) was the path to God.

    In our modern context, some think we must hold to a specific, narrow position (theirs) on the topic at hand, or else we’re wrong, heretical, and probably not even Christian. In reality, I don’t care how others believe on most of these issues, but find others who are determined that everyone must believe as they do, which I usually do not.

    On the other hand, before we become part of a group, we may need to find out from the group “Are we expected to hold certain beliefs/positions to be an accepted part of your group?” Many groups have what I call their “secret beliefs” that they don’t advertise, and even hide.

    For example, the last institutional church we attended had very strong positions on women, homosexuality, unmarried people living together, baptism, elders and numerous other things. Those beliefs, however, were not stated anywhere, in the bylaws, membership materials and so on.

    After our first Sunday I made an appointment with the pastor and asked if the church had strong positions on anything that were not written out in the materials they had given us. He said they did not.

    I specifically asked about several issues, including their position on the role of women. He told me that women could do anything except be the pastor. That was far from the truth. In actuality women were allowed to work only with small children and other women. Women were not allowed to even be on the platform without a man (under the authority of a man I think they called it).

    Most of my other questions were also answered dishonestly. It took us two or three years to figure out what they really believed on those issues, when an elder loaned me the book upon which they based all of their beliefs. We departed.

    So if I’m gay and want to know if I’ll be accepted by your group I need to know how your group feels about that rather than invest a year into your group to finally figure out I’m not accepted. If I’m homophobic and very anti-gay, maybe I need to know if your group is not that way rather than distress both your group and me with my strong, out-spoken anti-gay views.

    Tough topic, huh? As you know, you and I think a lot alike. That last church experience, however, spelled the end of attending the IC for us. Actually, we have found that was a very good thing.

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    • Sam, Thanks for sharing your story. I’m so sorry that you had such a bad experience. It always seems to hurt a little more when we are hurt by the church. For most of my adult life the church was what my whole life revolved around and I never thought there would come a day when I didn’t go to church, but I no longer attend church. I actually feel a little sick to my stomach when I think about going to church and I know that I certainly would have to ask some questions before I invested myself again.

      Does that make me a bad person? Shallow? Less loving? A person of too little faith? A bad Christian?

      Maybe it does but I’ve been hurt and I’m just not willing to take the same chances anymore.

      Maybe I’m just not church worthy anymore.

      Maybe some of us ask the “what’s your position” question just because we are afraid.

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      • Liz, not “going to church” does not make you a bad person, or any of those other things. Many of us have discovered that we need to avoid people, places and systems that are not safe for us, and often that includes “going to church”.

        We practice being the church, which is so much more meaningful to us and others than parking our butts in a seat and listening and watching a program. We can allow others to be who they are, and still love them.

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    • thanks, sam, yes, i think it is so important to just get certain things on the table so we’re clear, and there’s nothing worse than deception. i really love your and liz’s thoughts because they need to be said. the systems are so broken and unsafe and we’ve made such a mess of so many things, i have lost a lot of hope. the small shred i hold onto are good people who want to learn and love and be secure enough in our own perspectives to stand next to others who see it differently and still love.

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  • LOVE your questions, Kathy. May many people read this and begin to reframe, rethink and relive their faith using those kinds of questions rather than “what’s your position on . . . ” Thank you.

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  • Church governance also plays a part in this, because we are urged to use discernment, seek what God desires of the congregation, and what the Meeting overall needs. It is often referred to as a consensus form of governance, and not everyone wins in consensus. In perfect consensus everyone wins and nobody wins. But in my experience of church politics, consensus and discernment almost always mean the decision is made outside of the room, and I don’t mean up in heaven. Usually in a committee, but sometimes the committees are unofficial. For example, the reverend, the deacon, and assorted good old boys might decide something ahead of time and then impose it on the rest of us, manipulating the discernment process to make it their way so we the congregation just affirm/approve whatever has been decided. But they say it is the Will of God. This is the way church beliefs, money and ministry is decided. I am dissatisfied. Consensus just means the white heterosexual males in charge of everything still get to be in charge of everything, they just try to make everyone else feel like you’re contributing.

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