Yesterday morning I received a phone call from Lovely Conservative Colleague. She asked whether I had some time to talk, either yesterday or today. We agreed that she would come to my church at 3 PM.
From that moment (it was morning when we spoke), I felt my pulse start to escalate, and my blood pressure elevate. I was full of fear. I felt sure I knew why she was coming. I felt sure that her church had decided to initiate a judicial action, either against me or against the local judicatory that approved my church keeping me.
It was a long, tense day.
When she arrived, we sat together in my office and prayed. Then she spoke.
I find I don't want to try to summarize all she said. It's too complicated and it's too full of the kind of arcana that makes people who don't happen to be polity wonks of my denomination nuts.
Here is the short version. She and her husband (they serve a church together) are troubled that I am not, in their view, in compliance with our church's policies. (But I am... we disagree on interpretation. We are not alone in our disagreement.) They are espcially troubled because we work together on a particular annual project that has to do with training church leadership, and they are not sure they can be a part of it if I am a part of it... especially I end up teaching about our church's policies.
More broadly, though, she told me that she has come to the conclusion that our church is too diverse, that it cannot hold together if we can't agree on such fundamentals as who Jesus Christ is and what he does. (But I think we do agree on that. And it is my belief about Jesus that underscores my beliefs about how we should treat all of our brothers and sisters in Christ... including, me.) She believes we should bless one another and go our separate ways so that we can all be, authentically, who we believe God has called us to be.
I, on the other hand, continue to hope we can let Jesus hold us together. I don't believe, given the diversity of creation, that a church can be too diverse. I believe hearts might be changed.
Here's the really odd thing: it was the most loving conversation. Even when it was hard, it was holy. This woman has integrity. She told me, this is not about my gifts. She told me, I am a gift to the church. And... being who I am, I was all too ready to back off teaching the particular unit that concerns her, a willingness to relinquish my own legitimate authority that bothers me as I reflect on it after the fact.
I was able to share with her some of my journey of this past year. I told her how I became convicted (such a great word in this context) by my scripture reading throughout Lent. She marveled at how she and I can read the same scriptures, and feel led by God in different directions. She believes we may just have to let God sort it out, in the end. I cannot disagree.
It was on the whole a beautiful and painful and disturbing conversation. It was not your usual theological disagreement. I did not (and do not) call her a homophobe. (Even though I suspect somewhere, down deep, there is a visceral discomfort that comes into play.)
At the end, we prayed again. Then I said, I was really scared. She laughed and said No, I was really scared!
How can God not want us in the same church?