Most of the comments I’ve heard in response to MCUSA’s weekend decision to retain Phoenix as the site of the 2013 Convention fall into two camps: scattered energy from those disappointed, or “let’s move on” statements from those in agreement.
Several of those who were, like myself, disappointed with the decision have suggested we’ve “crossed a threshold” or that its time to think about new ways to be Anabaptist(Click here for one example). Both varieties of energy feel premature to me. I’m not sure we as a faith community are ready to move on yet. What we need is to properly feel this decision: there are folks in our family who now feel further marginalized by this decision, there is genuine disagreement on how best to be a witness, and a growing sense of mistrust in our midst. What can we do today in personal and corporate response to these realities?
Allow me to suggest that we join our voices in lament. The following lament is based on Ephesians 1-3 and was born out of God’s vision for one body of Christ. It is not a statement that suggests that we “got it wrong” in the decision, though I clearly think we did. The lament is that WE are somehow broken, the Phoenix decision is only a symptom of a larger reality. This decision didn’t create a crisis in MCUSA, it only revealed its existence. Whether we’re in or out of Phoenix, the real work was NEVER about this one decision. The real work is the difficult task of being a body with many members, of breaking down walls and of being built together into a spiritual house for God. I trust we as a church are committed for the longhaul to address the breadth of this reality among our family.
But today, I invite you to join me in bringing our brokenness before God in prayer:
O God, your family is dysfunctional!
What you have gathered up into Christ we have kept scattered.
What you are Lord over, we so easily become slave to.
We have been created in Christ for good works (indeed! this is our way of life), yet feel powerless in a system of privilege, wealth, and ethnic identity to make your peace reality.
While you work to make multiple groups into one, we plan separate (but equal?) gatherings. While you break down walls that divide, we decide by highest bidder.
While you work for reconciliation, we decide to exclude.
Where is your peace? Where the new humanity promised? Where is the dwelling place where all are welcome? Where the evidence of the church distinct from the world?
We deeply grieve the hostility between us, and confess that your gift of peace has fallen flat.
Today members of our family woke up wondering if this family is theirs too.
Your household crumbles, only the foundation stands.
Your stunning mystery again feels concealed: that all people have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise.
We mistook financial risk for a daring opportunity to make known the wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
O Christ, the Prince of Peace, come again and proclaim peace to those who are far off and peace to those who are near.
May we be strengthened in our inner being for the work that is before us.
May Christ dwell in all our hearts, and may our responses, plans, and new patterns of behavior always be rooted and grounded in love.
We pray with the whole church, that MCUSA would one day have the courage to live by the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ.
Today, we can’t imagine this ever happening.
But thankfully God, you still can.
Indeed, we barely have the heart to ask.
But filled with all the fullness of God, anything is possible.
May it be so.