Last night, I was again blessed—this time to have an opportunity to teach and discuss the national church’s most recent social statement, The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries, with a group of parishioners. I went into this experience knowing how political of a subject it was and the probability of a wide variety of thoughts and opinions regarding justice, incarceration, and rehabilitation. The open discussion following the presentation had the potential of illuminating people’s differences and creating division. (We in the church are no strangers on how a document intended for prayerful consideration, education, and inclusion—when managed poorly—can unfortunately do the opposite of these things.) Yet, despite our honest differences, we were all able to speak and listen respectfully—hearing one another’s questions and comments as that of another beloved child of God. In the parsonage living room—with our diversity in social stances—we were not kept from learning and growing together in our faith as one unified body of Christ.
A number of people, over the last few years, have questioned me on how I can participate within a church that does not seek complete adherence from all of its members on all subjects—as if we must all believe the same exact things. My response is usually one of humor to diffuse the situation: “Thank God, not everyone thinks the same way I do!” We hear Jesus pray for unity among the disciples in John 17:20-23. I’m not sure if Jesus’ prayer means we are to all believe all the same things or not. I trust that God creates us in our diversity for a good reason that is beyond my understanding. So, I rest my hope in the beauty of the Spirit’s work of unity amidst our diversity. Our differences are not bad; they only become a negative thing when we let them divide us and destroy others. We are a diverse, yet beautiful, church. May we remember this as we seek to live, love, and serve together in the name of the One who unifies us all: Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Lord.