Monday, October 17, 2011

Kindness Rating

Dear Pamela,

It is very interesting to me to think about how varied the responses have been to my congregation’s (and my) departure from the ELCA.  As you know, it has been a very painful process, but one that was steeped in prayer, reflection and constant discernment.  It was a matter of pastoral care for the congregation I serve as many of the disciples there were questioning/struggling/wrestling mightily with the actions of the church and the emerging issues with scripture/naming of God etc.  The responses have ranged from viciousness to gentle admonishing (because they couldn’t understand) to acceptance that we had done our “homework” in prayer and study.  All in all I think it was about a 50% approval rating (really it’s a kindness rating not an approval rating).  I received emails that were not so nice, Facebook messages that questioned my apparent sanity, and phone calls questioning my motives.  However, I also received kindness from people who disagree with my position, well wishes for the future, and even encouragement from those who agree but who are not ready to take any next steps for various reasons.  There has been cutoff in the classic Bowenian sense, distancing but also walking toward in order to hear and understand.  A full range of responses has occurred.

We always have a choice as to how we will respond to another’s words and actions.  Our own differentiation of self is exhibited in our response.  There is no need for name-calling, vilifying or scapegoating.  .  . but it happens.  My task has been to be self-reflective through it all and continue asking, “Where are my buttons getting pushed?” and “How am I defining self amidst the conflict and pressure that others seek to put on me?”  and most importantly “How am I taking responsibility for what is mine and not taking responsibility for what is not mine?”  

I continue to pray for God to reveal whatever he is up to in all of this.  I continue to try to not lose faith in “church” but this process has served to further focus my faith on Christ rather than on any institution.  Might we try through all the trials of the holy catholic and apostolic church of Christ to have a better kindness rating than 50%?  

Your sister in Christ,


Dear Sister and young friend...

Whenever a colleague, friend or lover goes separate ways there is loss.  Loss can generate raw emotions of pain or fear, (gut and heart).  There may be tears, sighs, or flushed faces...even some degree of clenched jaw or fist.  

When the mind or the ego kick in (as they usually will) they offer their thoughts about what has happened.  Since mind and ego are the voice of “self” they are often reflective of the struggle to answer the question:  “What does this mean?”  “ What does this say about me (or us)?”  “What am I going to do now?”  The more we focus upon what the “other” has decided to do or say, the more we run the risk of judgment, blame or the attempt at countering their decision.  

I could be wrong (it has happened at least a few times), but I think an unkind response is an indication of a lack of faith or trust.  Perhaps unkindness is a manifestation of sin’s power to divert our focus from God’s presence in all matters, calling forth new life and new possibilities, even when there is a “death” of relationship or affiliation.

God calls us to mercy, gentleness, kindness, especially when the people of God are suffering (and we are, aren’t we?).  

The whole church -- in all of its expressions -- is groaning with the pain of trying to sort out the confusion generated when we strive to “know” what is God’s truth about any issue that has MULTIPLE facets.  

I encourage us to lean towards the Cross, where even the most intense suffering does not have the last say.   It may not happen in our lifetime, but in the end all of these matters will come to an end.  All of our questions and debates will fall into silence.  

In the mean time, if we are not kind and gentle towards one another, and if we fail to care for the burdens we all share, then, quite honestly, we (the church) are giving the others who do not know Christ absolutely no reason to believe that we DO!!!!!  

Peace to you,


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