August 9, 2023
Approximately 3,000 people gathered for our denomination’s General Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky, that began on July 29. Though I had to leave early, it was a magnificent event. Once again, I witnessed a community of diverse people trying to find commonality in purpose while also attempting to learn from those with whom we had differing opinions. This is important because we live in a world where disagreements lead to the severing of relationships based upon the assumption that “I can’t like you if we disagree on something.” Sadly, we are finding ourselves dividing into smaller and smaller camps with more narrow beliefs that are never challenged. We tend to listen for certain words or ways of speaking, and if someone utilizes such ideas, that person is deemed a heretic, idiot, enemy, or all of the above.
One afternoon at General Assembly, I heard someone use theological language that I found a bit troubling, but this individual also told a story of an amazing ministry that is helping to make God’s love very real to a certain group of people. If I had immediately written this person off because of some language I found to be archaic and exclusive, I would never have heard the story. How many of us, if defined by a single sentence we once uttered, might be tossed out of most every group? Our theological language is shaped by our experiences, and when one person’s experiences are outside of our own, we can’t automatically assume we will see things the same. The important piece is pausing long enough to say, "So tell me why your description of God (or whatever it might have been) is important to you." Sometimes people will say, "I don’t know. In fact, I don’t even know I believe that," or you might hear a breathtaking story that formed that theological idea. We may still disagree with how God, worship, or ethics are described, but often the story helps place them in context. And with that story-shaped context in place, it is hard to see that person as anything other than a beloved member of God’s family.
Give me ears to hear and lips prepared to ask open-ended questions. There are days, O Lord, when I will most definitely need your help, yet my hope is to make enough space for your Spirit to work in the moment. Amen.
Rev. Bruce Frogge