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Over the generations, those of us in the Brethren movement have claimed “simple living” as a core value. Of course, as with any socio-spiritual conviction we’ve found vastly different ways of living in ways we might consider simple. It used to be plain clothes and abstaining from anything that might be considered “fancy.” More recently we’ve taken to focusing on living within our means, not falling prey to the prevalent consumer culture that surrounds us, or not relying on consumer credit to buy luxuries we can’t really afford.

Another way that many folks I know have taken to living simply involves trying to opt-out of complex corporate/industrial systems that are seen as working against the common good of all humanity. Yet it seems that such efforts often lead to a lifestyle that is far from simple, at least when judged by our traditional ideas of simplicity. Read the rest of this entry »

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I was recently posed this question: What does the Church of the Brethren do best? And it honestly made me stop and pause. For me, I can answer that question in a couple of ways. I often joke that people in the ecumenical world understand what being Brethren is all about than a lot of Brethren I have met – and in that light my mind immediately jumps to our peace witness. This is historically what we are known for, and what theĀ  ecumenical world turns to us for advice on.

However, I also realized this went a lot deeper than that. And the more I thought about the question, I realized my problem with it was in the phrasing. What we do best as a church is about what we do best as a people. The question shouldn’t be, what does the Church of the Brethren do best, but what do Brethren do best? I say that for a couple of reasons, that I might get into in a future post (tomorrow :)). But my answer to the second question was no less complicated. I think Brethren are at their best when they are living as reconciled people of God – peacefully, simply, and together. I have seen this lived out in a variety of ways relatively recently. Externally, I have seen it in the gatherings of the Historic Peace Churches held throughout the world during the Decade to Overcome Violence, and the different witnesses that have spoke of living this way in their contexts. Closer to home, I saw it at Heeding God’s Call in Philadelphia last year – and the way that ministry has continued and taken on a life of its own.

I have also seen it internally – I saw it at the young adult ministry forum in Phoenix a year and a half ago – where we all clearly disagreed an awful lot, but committed to working together to live out what being a reconciled people should be. And I have seen it in how the conversations on sexuality have been set up, and the intentional commitment to seeking input from all corners of the church.

So, that is the beginning of my answer. What say you? What do Brethren do best?

Friends,

The Annual Conference Special Response Resource Committee has just posted their study resources for conversations about sexuality in the church. They close their curriculum (a series of 8 sessions of biblical study and conversation on the two Annual Conference queries from 2009) with the encouragement to “continue to seek out respectful dialogue with others throughout our denomination.” This space has become a place for conversation and respectful dialogue on many other questions facing the church, and I’m curious if we can take advantage of it to share and seek the Spirit amongst ourselves on these questions.

Talking about divisive questions online is different than talking about them in a Sunday school classroom or Wednesday night bible study. We can’t see each others’ faces or interpret one another’s body language. Still, for many of us who find this place a consistent spot for connecting and discussing, conversation yields great fruit. So, I share here the covenant proposed in the study resources:

As a person of faith, sincere in my commitment to heal and care for the body of Christ, I covenant with this group:
…to respect the dignity and intrinsic worth of each participant.
…to honor moments of tension between us as opportunities for the Spirit to teach and lead.
…to be open to the varied insights emerging from our shared study of scripture.
…to be honest about my own doubts and fears.
…to listen carefully, speak gently, and prayerfully consider perspectives that are different from my own.
…to begin from a place of trust that God will be present with us in this process.

With those commitments in mind, what do you make of the study resources? Will you use them in your congregation? Will you study them yourself? Have you done any discernment of this sort before? Where is the Spirit leading us?