Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Finding Unity in Division

This past weekend, the Greater Milwaukee Synod, which is the regional body of my denomination, met for our annual assembly in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Unlike some years, we had a full agenda of business for the three days of the assembly, including electing a new bishop and reviewing six resolutions or policy statements.

On Friday, we spent a significant portion of the day debating one resolution in particular that proposed support of #BlackLivesMatter and their ten-point plan for improving community policing. It was a long and difficult conversation about how best to respond to the issue of racism in our country and how to be a public voice of Christ's gospel on this issue. Do we support the #BlackLivesMatter movement or craft our own statement? How do we word the resolution to be most effective? Should we amend the statement and if so how? How do we honor the voices of police officers and civic leaders who are anti-racism but don't agree with everything in the ten-point plan?

Over the course of three sessions, conversation was often emotional and personal, sometimes tense and uncomfortable. There were strong opinions on all sides and some visible frustration, as well. Finally, around 9:30 at night, discussion ended with the assembly voting to pass the statement. There was still clear layers of tension and exhaustion in the room as we stood to end our session with song and prayer.

But then a beautiful thing happened. As we began singing "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," without anyone prompting us, the entire assembly joined hands and as one body we sang: I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me home.

I was brought to tears by that moment. Despite the fact that we had been arguing and disagreeing just minutes before, here we were, joined together as one body. In an age where we so often act and speak as though we cannot associate or respect people who have different ideas on politics or economics, here the Body of Christ was showing the opposite. In spite of our differences, at the end of the day we were not simply individuals with opinions, but, as our Presiding Bishop likes to say, we are church; we are church together. 

Even when we disagree on issues like BlackLivesMatter, the unified message that we are church together is a powerful one to share.

From the Gray,
Pastor Ari

“This is the worthwhile fight.” -Taylor Swift, “State of Grace”

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