ABQ, Ghost Ranch and Those Presbyterian Peacemakers

The Skies Above Ghost Ranch

It’s been exactly one week since I blogged last. I wish that my break was because I am on a some kind of relaxing get-away, but alas, I am on Presbyterian Conference overdrive. Last week I was at the Presbyterian General Assembly in Pittsburgh, I then spent three days in Albuquerque and now I am at Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu for the 2012 Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference.

16 days on the road, at least I could be in a rock band ūüėČ

I will probably blog about General Assembly later and, Thanks to the hospitality of New Life Presbyterian Church and my FB Family I had a lovely time exploring Albuquerque.

Today is the first full day of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference. An annual gathering of folks committed to peaceful pursuits and ministries of justice, this is a gathering that is organized out of the Peacemaking Program of the office of Compassion Peace and Justice. I have attended this event off and on over the past 10 years and always enjoy the blatant commitment that is expressed about justice, peace and compassion in the world.

This year’s theme is ‘Restorers of Streets to Live In’ based on¬†Isaiah 58 and, last night as we began to¬†listed the pain we know on our streets, I was reminded about why these Peacemaking Conferences are so important. As we named issues of gun violence, war, human trafficking, homelessness,¬†personal¬†pain, etc. there was no looking over the shoulder to see who might hear, no wondering if this was going to attract some political fight, no wondering if it was okay to talk about these things, etc. Yes, there are times we must be wise and¬†guarded, but Peacemaking Conferences create a space where there is an unspoken understanding that these issues are at the heart of the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on our lives. So very grateful for those who have lived this for generations and for those who will do so in the future.

There are some great folks speaking and presenting this including:¬†Margaret Aymer,¬†Cl√°udio Carvalhaes,¬†David LaMotte, Luba Kravchenko and more, so if you are interested in “being here” this week, here are the links that you can like and follow.

Just to give you a taste of some of the topics and¬†projects¬†that come out of the ministry of the Peacemaking Program, here is a trailer of a documentary, “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence” which will show on NBC beginning November 11. There will be more info to come, but again, just a taste. [Watch the Video].

Wherever Liberals and Conservatives are Gathered, There is _____?

Photo by rishibando on Flickr

I am sure that when you read the title of this post, you filled in the blank with:

  • fear
  • ignorance
  • hostility
  • injustice
  • distraction
  • Jesus
  • or beer

Sure, there are individuals who might indeed warrant such descriptors, but might we be better served by filling in the blank with “faithfulness, conviction and grace?”

As you some of you know, this week I am attending the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Pittsburgh. There will be many topics towards which we will direct our energy and time, but the debate concerning the definition of marriage will be right there at the top of the list. It is no secret that I am supportive of marriage equality as a civil right. I am also supportive of my particular part of the Christian world, the Presbyterian Church (USA) also recognizing same-gender marriage as an faithful symbol and expression of the love between two people.

What I have noticed about the debate between the most passionate of both sides is the preponderance of two distinct arguments and¬†assumptions¬†about the other.¬†Liberals say about conservatives, “They are driven by fear and a lack of¬†awareness.”¬†Conservatives say about ¬†liberals, “They have strayed from the Word of God and are¬†capitulating¬†to culture.”

If we are going to get anywhere, we have to drop these arguments, because I believe they are not, as a larger narrative, true.

Liberals must understand that there many conservatives who have not¬†arrived¬†at their position about homosexuality and marriage out of fear, but out of a deep conviction about and understanding of God’s truth. ¬†Likewise, conservatives must understand that there are many liberals who have not¬†arrived¬†at their position about homosexuality and marriage out of a need to satisfy¬†cultural¬†trends, but out of a deep conviction about and understanding of God’s truth.

Lobbing accusations about the motivations of others is fruitless and is only good for adding to our own cache with those with whom we already agree. Because these accusations can not be defended or disproved, we must give the benefit of the doubt to the other that each has been and is being faithful to God, guided by Scripture and open to the movement of the Holy Spirit and not driven by fear, ignorance and cultural relevancy.

As one who has lived in disagreement with my church family for decades, I do believe we can find ways to live together in disagreement.  Should all involved truly yearn for that place to be found, it cannot be built on reckless, destructive and vindictive assumptions of the other. We will only find that place of healthy tension that disagreement brings if it is built on the common ground of faithfulness, conviction and grace.

That’s my hope and I’m sticking to it. Peace be with you.