One personal core value statement of mine is “there is more that unites us than separates us.” I frequently shared this statement at Community Presbyterian in Plainview and imagine that I’ll share it in my ministry at Chain of Lakes Church. Often I find myself sharing these words when disagreements seem to be overwhelming.
In the PC(USA) our disagreements seem overwhelming and are tearing us apart. It’s my experience that many Presbyterians are very wedded to our own tribe and viewpoints. Our allegiances far outweigh our willingness to be in dialogue with people outside our tribe. Working with people outside our tribe doesn’t seem to happen often.
I don’t want to appear to be on my own high horse when it comes to being wedded to my own tribe and viewpoints. I certainly am capable of being polemical, and I enjoy spending time with people with whom I agree. However, I believe that the future of the church and especially the future of main-line denominations lie in our ability to claim the fact that there is more that unites us than separates us.
This past week the leaders of the PC(USA) sent a letter applauding Presbyterians for our civil conversation on the recent voting on Amendments to the Book of Order. In the Twin Cities Area Presbytery our conversation about these Amendments was civil—heated at times, but civil.
To be honest, I don’t think the world outside the PC(USA) is really paying attention to our civil conversation regarding Amendments to the Book of Order. I do think folks outside the PC(USA) would notice if our conversation was not civil. I think the world assumes (rightly or wrongly) that leaders inside a denomination are civil with each other.
I think people outside the PC(USA) would be more interested in us if they saw us working together in a dynamic and Spirit-inspired way. This can only happen if we truly believe that there is more that unites us than separates us.
Last November I preached for the Twin Cities Area Presbytery (which by the way is still a terrible name. If we aren’t going to name our Presbytery, “Hope Presbytery,” I would vote for “Plainview Area Presbytery”). In my sermon I shared that I’m not all that interested in having conversation with people with whom I disagree. Don’t misunderstand me—I am interested in other people’s viewpoints and how they came to them. I’m just passionate about discovering what unites me to others and then doing ministry together. Oh sure—if I have a couple hours of time and a cold beverage in my hand I might find it illuminating to discover how a person came to a position. But how many of us have that sort of time?
Until we Presbyterians muster the will to work with people with whom we disagree in a Spirit-led way, the world is not going to pay much attention to us.