I am in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, taking in Frank Viola's Re-Imagining the Church conference. It also happens to be my home town, so I'm staying with my family and enjoying them. My nieces and nephews are a delight. My brother and sisters, mom and dad, everybody... it's great to just hang out and laugh.
Yesterday for lunch my son Joshua and I went down to Toronto and met Karen Padgett, a Fluevog director. We'd never met before but communicated online. Mutual friends. She picked up some of the reverberations of my struggle from some comments I made on Facebook one day, opened up a communication with me, and has been an incredible source of encouragement and wisdom ever since. Lunch at Milestones was a delight. We're now friends for life.¬†
My z-theory caused a stir! Didn't it? I expected it would. I don't cause stirs on purpose. I write what I'm thinking about and inevitably it upsets some people. I frustrate and confuse, I know. I don't mean to. I experience this in my own community. Like I've said before: we are such a wide diversity of people, and I appreciate that. I'm thankful for it. But not everybody likes this. Some see this as the preliminary condition that needs to be transformed into the homogeneous community that looks just like them. They see it as the chaos and void over which the spirit hovers that will take shape into their fantasies for the community. Few see it as beautiful now. There are some charismatics who would like the see the church be a charismatic church where charismatic manifestations define who we are. There are non-charismatics who would prefer that no charismatic manifestations take place at all. There are fundamentalists who would like me to take a hard line on gays. There are others who would like to see more gay couples participate in our community life. There are some who would like us to be a "bible-believing" church, while there are others who are searching for a way to be a believer without having to embrace the plenary-verbal view of inspiration or whatever. I could go on.
The point is that, as a pastor, it is my duty to encourage and nurture the whole, not the part. I want charismatic expression, but I wouldn't want that to define us. Neither would I want us to be defined as a non-charismatic community. I hear the atheists, but I wouldn't want atheism to be who we are, any more than I'd want our fundamentalism to define us. All have a right, but none have sole right. Do you see what I mean?
But this is frustrating because some people think I'm not taking a stand but am wishy-washy, watering down, compromising, backboneless, liberal, evasive, etc.. I have to endure a lot of pressure from all sides to make me into their own image of what they think I should be. Few see the amount of lobbying that goes on to try to morph me into their fantasies of what their pastor should look like. It takes daily strength to resist these pressures, to reject the fantasies, and to resolutely stand for unity in diversity for the sake of the community.
I think the z-theory is a unifying theory. I am interested in finding ways of illuminating how we are united, and this theory has given me a way of thinking that does this. It is interesting that something that it intended to be unifying can be so divisive.
I will continue cartooning again early next week. Stay tuned.