Disagreeing Well

Yesterday we had a lively “debate” about women’s ordination in the A2 Facebook group. I appreciated two aspects of the conversation. First, there was diversity of opinion. Adventist “ethicists” have a wide range of views, interpretations and approaches. This is good. Groupthink is not helpful. No view, no matter how foundational to Adventism or Christianity is uncontested (God exists, God is love, Jesus is God, Jesus promoted peace and justice, I should promote peace and justice, etc.), and that is certainly true for all of the moral claims we are wrestling with here. So I hope people will continue to feel free to speak their minds on topics, knowing that the expression of alternate views is an important part of our ethical development.

The second thing I appreciated was the attitude between people. No one disfellowshipped anyone else. Everyone deserves respect. We are all trying to be true to the Bible and to God’s Spirit. Yet no one has all the data or is interpreting all the data objectively and accurately. We need each other. I need your information. I need your perspective. Jimi Hendrix said he never met a guitarist he didn’t learn from. I may not switch to your side of the argument, but I will at least have a better understanding of both sides of the issue. So I appreciated that both sides granted the other the benefit of the doubt regarding sincerity and their place as children of God.

Disagreeing must be done in the context of the affirmation that we are seekers of God, at least as honestly and faithfully as humanly possible. We may disagree about who (if anyone) should be ordained, about how to engage in the political sphere, about military ethics, or how to care for creation, but we are still part of one family–God’s family. We are part of a religious tradition that at its best has promoted “unity in diversity” rather than “conformity.” May this always be true of our conversations here. We’re all doing the best we can, and hopefully together we can figure more out and engage in more faithful action than we could alone.

At about the same time that the ordination conversation was occurring, I read a post by Shane Claiborne on the same topic–his disagreements with Chuck Colson. This line stood out to me: “Despite disagreeing on some important things, he left me wanting to talk more, rather than less. I’d say our world of mean politics and ugly theology could use more Chuck Colsons.”

This conversation also reminds me of the TED talk by Kathryn Schulz, On Being Wrong. “I can’t actually think of anything that I’m wrong about.” Let’s not fall back on the unfortunate assumptions about those who disagree with us.

Grace and peace my brothers and sisters in Christ,

Jeff

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