Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Convocation Meeting

Sarah and I attended a church meeting out of town on Sunday. The meeting was being held to discuss the upcoming election of the bishop of our diocese. Church meeting are always so (hmmm) interesting. There was a diverse group of people there.......from staunch conservatives to ultra liberals. People seemed a little ill at ease at the beginning of the meeting. I would guess that the diversity of opinions and not really knowing who held what opinion would make some a people a little hesitant but not everyone.

The two most memorable characters there were an older gentleman who loudly proclaimed a very orthodox position and the "crazy uncle at the family reunion" character. In my opinion, the Crazy Uncle provided the most comic relief. As the leader began to explain the process the search committee was using, there were questions about why background checks were being done. The leader responded that they had talked with a number of dioceses and that because of the experience of one diocese in electing a bishop whose background later turned out to cause some problems after his election, the decision had been made to do background checks on all individuals being considered for nomination. The Crazy Uncle declared in a loud voice, "it was because he was a "pee dee oo file." There were looks of horror. The leader said that was not the case and quickly moved on. Of course, the CU now has everyone's attention. I guess most people (me included) were wondering whether CU may or may not be violent.

The older gentleman expounds at times that things are fine like they are (very conservative). He opines that his male friends are leaving the church because of all the changes, especially, having women as priests and in leadership positions. That really hit a nerve with me. You would be proud, I did not disrupt the meeting. However, I did lean over to a man sitting next to me and whispered, as old as he is his friends aren't leaving because of women priests. His friends are leaving in coffins!

As the meeting goes on, the CU wanders around the room from time to time and stands or sits next to people and gives the people intense looks. One of the women in the group was addressing the group using a microphone and CU goes and stands directly beside her (he would have been violating my personal space limits) and looks her up and down.

THEN the older gentleman said something that made my head spin around like the possessed girl in the movie, The Exorcist. I'm not sure what his complete statement was now but I heard the phrase "socialist, marxist Jesus. I had read a blog earlier in the week that used the phrase, a "proto marxist hippie Jesus" that had been disturbing me for a couple of days. I did not respond in the meeting but after I got home I did some thinking, some reading and then some writing. Writing helps me get out some of my frustrations so this is my response to the blog commenter and to our older gentleman:

The comment about Jesus being a "counterculture proto-marxist hippie" has disturbed me for days. I had finally put the phrase aside and moved on...........until yesterday. We attended a "listening meeting" that is part of the process for our diocese in selecting a new bishop.

There were a number of very conservative people in the group. One of questions we were asked to discuss was our vision of the church in ten years. It became obvious that one rather older conservative gentleman thought there should be no changes. Everything needed to stay just the same as it is right now. As he expounded on his "maintain things as they are" position and then the phrase "socialist marxist Jesus" came out.

Marxist is a term that strikes fear into most people because they know very little about it except that maybe it is associated with Communism which, of course, it is.

I looked up "Marxism" when I got home and the information is quite extensive. I do not have the knowledge to discuss marxism intelligently (nor do I believe that the gentleman in the meeting using the the phrase about marxism has an extensive knowledge either). What I do believe is that many individuals who use these phrases do so with the intent of causing fear and stopping conversation. As demonstrated yesterday in our group, the marxist comment did indeed cause discomfort in the group and stymie conversation for a while.

Now that I have settled why the marxist comment has made me so uncomfortable. I have come to another conclusion.

I am not a Bibical scholar and certainly cannot debate theology extensively but I do not see Jesus acting as part of the "establishment" of his day. He was different in that he sought out those who were different, those who were shunned by the establishment of his day. It is also obvious that his actions made the people who were attempting to maintain the status quo pretty uncomfortable while the disenfranchised of his day flocked to him.

So rather than labeling the actions of Jesus, if we describe his actions, maybe we can come closer to a conversation in which we can all participate and move a little closer to that "beloved community."

Having written my frustrations out, I realize that we all have our place at the table. The older gentleman has his place, CU has his place and even I have my place. We each have opportunities to act as Christ to other people no matter what our individual theological beliefs we hold.

1 comment:

Shannon said...


Thank you. I found your discussion of the events insightful and wise. Thank you for sharing this. I think you are spot on in decribing the actions of Jesus rather than trying to pin potentially divisive labels on everything. Thank you again,