Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Government, synods just can't deal - let us join hands.

I published a collumn today in Die Beeld today. It is in Afrikaans so I thought it should be wise to translate it here on my blog. You might also find it on my other Afrikaans blog - uncut.
What did I say?

Last week my church, the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) held a General Synod in Benoni. As observer on social media, and through a few visits of some sessions, we could follow the discussions. Of course, church meetings are very complex (and tiring!). It is also not always indicative of what happens in faith communities. Sometimes the decisions is simply the outcome of the powerplay amongst personalities. Other times you feel however, now here's a moment of truth - just sometimes.

One of the difficult issues they dealt with, was the question whether members of the LGBTQI community may become minister and also, whether ministers may bless same-sex unions. The Nederdutch Reformed Church (a very conservative church) in the same week said yes, URCSA however

For many of us, this was (again) a painful realisation that the lipservice towards openness and love is embodied so difficultly. There was however another realisation for me. This also relates to the disturbing images of students tearing into libraries, lecture halls and streets demanding that they must be heard.

It must be of deep concern for all of us when it seems as if we have simply not developed the competence to embrace differentness. No community (even within faith communities) think the same. Our backgrounds and exposure on different levels make that we simply need to look in another manner at the reality of difference - even in our theological views.

This means that the question is no whether the one is correct and the other wrong. That is not the question. It simply means that we have to accept the challenge to seek, with each other, in love, the truth. None of us have the final right to the full truth. The Confession of Belhar describes it so beautifully: (We believe) that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, as well as the variety of language and culture, by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, is opportunities towards mutual service, and enrichment within the one people of God.

This is then also the framework within which the current conflict need to be seen. The tragedy is that our young people have been brought up in a culture where the one group first had to silence the other (even shouting them down), to assert themselves. The consequence is that we cannot debate, differ, learn and live with each other anymore. We are pressured to win all the time - sometimes at all costs, especially at the expense of those who live and think differently from our established traditions.

For our bigger cause and dream, namely our living together, which is so needed, the question is not whether we are right or wrong, but rather, how do we make it possible for all of us to live with each other and to serve and enrich each other.

The challenge is indeed: how can we use our different gifts, opportunities and convictions to become a better society?
Perhaps, we shouldn't expect too much from the government and the church meetings.
Perhaps, we need to realise that the gifts are in our own hands, by taking each others hands.

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