Monday, May 15, 2017

An initial reflection on Resolution 4: On Difficult Conversations

            The New Jersey Synod had our annual Synod Assembly, a gathering of ELCA members from congregations throughout the state of New Jersey. There we worshipped, attended break out sessions with useful programs and information to take back to our congregations, heard reports on what has happened in the Synod in the last year, and charted a course for the coming year.
            One of the thing ways we do this last thing is by passing Resolutions and Memorials. There were four total this year, including one by yours truly, which passed!
It reads as follows:

Resolution 4: On Difficult Conversations

Whereas, the 2016 Presidential election was very contentious;
Whereas, this partisanship has slipped into congregational and synodical life;
Whereas, we are called to love one another;
Whereas, in Christ there is no east nor west, north nor south;

Therefore Be It Resolved,
-the New Jersey Synod will continue to be a community for moral deliberation, navigating the present political realities as faithfully as possible;
-Congregations of the New Jersey Synod are encouraged to endeavor to be places where partisans may remain one in Christ;
-Members of the New Jersey Synod are encouraged to enter into difficult conversations with people with whom they disagree.

Submitted Pastor Chris Halverson, St. Stephen South Plainfield

            I’d planned on introducing it when debate over the Resolution began, but by then all 4 microphones were filled with people, so I just let things ride for a while.
            That said, if I had introduced it, I would have said something like the following:

            I introduce this resolution with a pastoral intent.
If you are a pastor here, raise your hand.
If your ministry has been affected by the 2016 election keep your hand up.

            The 2016 election has heightened partisanship to such an extent than nearly nothing is non-partisan today. This reality is deeply felt in the congregations of this synod as well; look no further than the memorials and resolutions before this assembly today.
-Over half a decade ago the ELCA passed a statement on Church in Society and we covenanted together to be communities of moral deliberation. Our social messages and statements call us to be a church engaged with the world as it is, in a public way. We are also called to engage with each other, even when we disagree. Having difficult conversations is not a new thing for us, we’re equipped for it. Our current political crisis calls for people like us to be who we are.
-I always remember the time my campus Pastor back in Eugene, Oregon, Pastor Kegel, smiled and actually kinda giggled while giving me Holy Communion. I later asked him what that was about.
I’d not noticed it, but the head of the College Republicans was kneeling not two feet from me, an active member of the College Democrats. We’d verbally jousted the day before in a ruckus campus debate, but then we both knelt at the same altar, fed by the same Bread of Life. Would that we always find our way to that altar, our baptism into Christ greater than any other identity we may have.
-What would it look like if we here in this assembly, and the congregations we represent, were to model difficult conversations to our neighbors? What if we could be salt and light—clarifying political beliefs? What if we could be seed, growing up through the hard ground of the present and bearing a fruitful future? What if we could be leaven, transforming the flatness of the present into a bountiful feast?
            What if, in short, we could be the Church for this time and place, repairing the breach that has so completely split our nation?

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