After four years away from Church of the Brethren drama and Annual Conference, I enthusiastically and optimistically attended this year's conference.
It was fantastic and frustrating, hopeful and horrible, spirited and shallow. Basically, it was human. I'm glad I went.
My friend Nate and I disagree on all the hot topics, and have meaningful conversation over and over. After conference we walked along Tampa Bay and wondered about the future of the church.
I don't believe we're created or called to design perfect institutions. When reforming institutions keeps us from serving, loving and experiencing joy, year after year, I believe one faithful way forward is to go separate ways. Not the only faithful way forward, but one valid option. If the Church of the Brethren wasn't a peace church, I bet we would have split already (this time around). But we have a reconciling identity to uphold!
We're leaking energy because we've lost trust in one another, and Annual Conference is a chance to stake claims and check boxes and assume the worst.
As I'm learning in my personal life, trusting someone else is only possible if I trust myself. As I contemplate this dynamic personally and organizationally (ecclesiastically?) I wonder if trusting others even matters. We can't predict or prepare for what others will say or do (in our personal lives or churches or jobs) but we can settle into our own selves, define our boundaries, and tend to our anxiety and disappointment along the way. That's what it means (to me, right now) to trust ourselves. And then we're ready for any situation.
If we trusted ourselves more in the church, we'd spend more time enjoying one another and growing in our faith and service. We'd spend less time arguing or defending or hunting heresy. Would a church split help us trust ourselves more, or would it weaken our trust?