Pastor’s Corner: Hard Conversations

A teenage girl stands at a microphone, with four other youth visible behind her, addressing General Synod.

July 3, 2019

How do we talk about things when the topic is hard?

At last week’s General Synod of the United Church of Christ, we saw this question arise more than once. People in the Church don’t always agree about everything (I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone), and sometimes deeply held values conflict with one another. That happened last week.

The UCC has sought for some time to create a safe and welcoming place for people who have been marginalized because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression. The UCC also values freedom of conscience, the ability of each person to work out their faith and share it without ostracism or condemnation by the Church. Last week, those values conflicted.

It’s not the first time. Robert’s Rules of Order, which govern these debates, were developed by Henry Martyn Robert after he found himself unable to properly moderate a contentious meeting – of a church. One way to talk about things when the topic is hard is to make the discussion a simple yes or no, go back and forth between proponents and opponents, and limit the time for each speaker so more get the chance to speak.

You get brief, powerful words that way.

When the options are only yes or no, however, the best choice may not be on the table. Last week, Synod delegates decided there had to be a better way. They moved the question to “the table,” giving leadership and membership of the Church time between now and the next Synod to have deeper conversations, and perhaps find another option.

That’s still hard talking. Let us pray for those who do it.

How do we talk about things when the topic is hard?

Prayerfully. Carefully. Faithfully. And we give it time.

With aloha,

Pastor Eric

The photo shows youth addressing General Synod (though not on the same issue). Photo by Eric Anderson.

Categories Pastor's Corner Reflections | Tags: | Posted on July 12, 2019

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