I have been away for a week at Missouri Ministers' School, an annual continuing education event for the United Methodist clergy in the Missouri Annual Conference. This year, our faculty included Willie Jennings, Ruth Duck, and Philip Wogaman. The theme of the conference was reconciliation, with the title, "Can Holy Ground Be Common Ground?"
The conference was really good, but I think it was a little heavy on the "theory" and kind of light on the "practice." There were some excellent theological conversations that left me asking the "So what?" question. In other words, how exactly is the church supposed to live this out in our "ministry of reconciliation" in the world today?
Another observation, our faculty this year were obviously somewhere on the left side of the theological sphere, and espouse ideas that might be labelled "liberal" or "progressive." They basically agreed with each other the whole time. (And, I must say, I basically agreed with them the whole time, too!) However there was no counterpoint offered. There was no one whom we might label "conservative" there to offer another perspective of reconciliation.
So it leads me to wonder, what does the ministry of reconciliation look like to people with a different theological perspective than Phil Wogaman et al? Is it as simplistic as saying, "Reconciliation implies assimilation and homogeneity"? In other words, in order to be reconciled with "us" you must become like "us"? Surely not. That sounds like the Borg, not the Church. And yet, to me, that is how it seems. Please correct the error of my thinking here if I am wrong, but a lot of contemporary Christianity seems to think that reconciliation means we can be together as long as the group with less power becomes like the group with more power. (And that seems to apply to independent churches as well as mainline protestantism, I am sad to say.)
This last week, even without a healthy counterpoint, the faculty of the Missouri Ministers' School sketched a picture of reconciliation that shows us living together in Christ even in spite of our differences. And I wonder, had a more conservative lecturer been there, what would she or he have had to say about that?