What does scripture have to say about men & women? Homosexuality? War? Justice?
These questions have managed to divide the Church and have been the seed of contention and animosity between believers, denominations and traditions. So why bother to have a conference where these questions are stirred up? What is the point? Is it to settle debates? To point fingers at all who disagree? To come up with some sort of binding agreement and then ask local congregations to form a coalition? Or is there something more?
Unfortunately, Scripture has been debated and debatable in many evangelical conversations. When these issues are “debated”, the conversation becomes oppositional. The stance taken is one of “us” vs. “them.” The point of the debate is to find flaws and weakness in the other side’s argument with the goal of affirming one’s point of view and simplifying a clear position on particular issues. In essence, the goal is to “win” the argument, affirming current view points while pointing out the fundamental “sin” or “wrongness” of the other side of the issue.
I will be attending ENG#14 because, at Ecclesia National Gatherings, I have never experienced an atmosphere of debate. Instead, there is an attitude of collaboration, of openness. Multiple viewpoints are encouraged and judgment is suspended. Ambiguity is tolerated. But rather than creating an individualistic or relativistic environment, this openness actually allows us to collectively seek deeper understanding of complex issues together as we listen to the Holy Spirit and to one another.
Listening to one another actually has a way of enlarging our point of view and even possibly changing the way we think. Rather than simplifying issues, we better understand the complexity of issues and acknowledge our inability to control or neatly package God’s story into moralistic mandates. Instead, we humbly submit to God’s Spirit and to one another, seeking to be faithful participants in His unfolding Story and proclaiming His good news, even as we receive it afresh.
While at Ecclesia gatherings, I am often brought into a place of wonder at what God is doing in His Church throughout North America. I hear stories of pastors and leaders from local communities who are depending on God’s leading. We wonder and celebrate together at His work, while admitting that we don’t fully understand and certainly can’t take credit. When I leave Ecclesia gatherings, I go home with a renewed sense of belonging to a tribe of humble servants who are grateful to be written into God’s Story and are watching with wonder at what unfolds.
It seems right that this gathering will be taking place in the season of Epiphany. At this time of year, we welcome “aha” moments, where Christ, the Word made flesh, is revealed to us in all His glory. I know there will be moments of revealed glory as we seek to receive the Word in all His fullness together at ENG#14.
Won’t you join us?