At a time when many Christian believers are at odds with one another, confrontation is sometimes the first approach in meeting disagreements.
This year, the Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren convened in Greensboro, North Carolina, to worship, pray and fellowship together.
And we met with the primary purpose to grow together toward a “Compelling Vision.”
What is it that compels us as Brethren to follow Jesus?
How is it that we continue his work in this world, peacefully, simply, together?
The “Compelling Vision” process started in 2017 because of the divisions within congregations.
Some were, and still are, contemplating extreme measures to satisfy a particular point of view.
In 2018, the Church of the Brethren determined that there must be a better, more Christ-like, approach.
The “Compelling Vision” process was the result.
The “Compelling Vision” is three-fold.
First, the denomination provided a basis of understanding for members by presenting scripture and Bible study throughout the year. These studies centered on the message of peace that Jesus taught. The message conveys an attitude of humility and gentleness with loving concern toward all. We had to peacefully accept that it is not ours to judge, but to quite simply, accept. This acceptance is not an abdication of our Christian responsibility to live upright lives before God, but instead, it is a recognition that as a body we are all different with different purposes and functions.
With this guidance received throughout the year, members from across the United States and around the globe met from July 3 to 7 to live out the process of finding our compelling vision.
We met in small groups, carefully chosen to represent different geographical areas and theological diversity.
The groups were given ample time to consider various points of view and understanding.
We were seated around round tables and provided with facilitators to keep us on track.
Everyone had equal opportunity to address the entire body, if led by the Spirit to share.
This was the focus of the conference.
No new business was introduced, no new queries were heard, only required reports interrupted the necessary work of compelling vision.
Even daily worship was designed to aid us in attaining a deeper understanding of God’s will.
Letting go of a personal agenda is easier for some, but not for all.
For me, the process was to remember whose we are, not who we are.
I learned to remove the “beam” from my own eye before attempting to remove the “speck” in another’s eye — clear vision is a must.
I learned that to drop the “stone” rather than cast it is an act of self-awareness.
It is knowing that judgment is not ours to cast, that I too can be full of fault.
I learned that to have God’s law written on my heart and in my mind means allowing God’s presence, rather than being God’s enforcer.
I learned that it is ours to sometimes drop the seed or water the plant and that it is God’s to make the plant grow and harvest the crop.
My prayer is that this refreshment of long-held values stays uppermost in my mind and that whoever I encounter feels valued, respected, accepted as a child of God.
The culmination of this visioning process will come at the 2020 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren.
We will hear recommendations and decide on actions. I am hopeful. This has been challenging and rewarding. I trust that God will continue to guide us in discerning our compelling vision.