Unfinished Business

Unfinished Atlanta

The past few years have taught me a lot about myself. For example, I learned from a Stengths Assessment that I am distinctly a visionary and not so much for the details. I realized I am also someone who achieves satisfaction not by checking of items on a to-do list but when a project or goal is accomplished. To leave New Church at this stage, though I am entirely convinced that this is the right and wise decision, feels entirely unsatisfactory when it comes to pushing my personal buttons. We They do not have a contract on selling property. We They have not made a formal decision about a permanent home. We They don’t even have a permanent name, yet. At one point, we had a goal that these big pieces would be in place before there was a change of leadership. That is not going to happen. It has to be left as unfinished business. These now fall into the hands of my very capable successors who will do excellently.

Unfinished Portland

Speaking of unfinished business, I followed my Superintendent’s request that we remain silent, listening to God as we try to figure out what all we did at General Conference. One might have a similar sense of frustration in not completing a task since we did not vote on the matters related to human sexuality. The more I think about the course chosen, I like it. The idea of a special commission allows for people to stop, pray, and listen. It allows for some consideration to be given for format and constituency. It also allows for buy-in as any proposal comes forth. While I remain in prayer for our Bishops as they will not make any decisions about the Commission until their November 2016 meeting, I do have a few ideas: 

  • Try inviting different people to the table. The usual suspects who have been so wrapped up in this issue for so long are nearing retirement. Maybe fresh perspectives will bring fresh solutions.
  • Related, while I am not sure how to get at this, let the vast majority–if not all–of the Commission should be populated by people who will live into the consequences. Folks need to have skin in the game. Invite wise sages to be conversation partners or consult, sure. But the bulk of this commission should be clergy with more than 10 years of service left before mandatory retirement and laity who actuarially have, say, 20 years to live into these decisions.
  • Keep it relatively small: 40 people, maximum. There needs to be representation but too large a Commission becomes unwieldy.
  • Surprise us with who will be the chair. Invite someone who garners the respect of all and is not seen as an apologist or acolyte for either of the two umbrella caucus groups.

Unfinished Orlando

There is much unfinished business when it comes to the atrocities in Orlando. Speaking for myself and myself only, the loss of life at a LGBTQ club on a Latino/a theme night cannot be interpreted as anything but a hate crime and act of terrorism. Yes, an attack on one is an attack on all. That said, we cannot forget that the Pulse club and the revellers present were intentionally targeted. To state this is not “making it political”, it’s observing reality. 

There’s work to be done to remind one another and the world that this killer stood outside the norms of his faith. Leaders in the Muslim community were quick to point out that this man did not stand within their faith when he committed these heinous acts. Yes, there’s unfinished business in helping Christians understand that extremists do not represent the totality or mainstream of their faith.

We cannot forget that, yet again, an assault weapon was used to killed numerous people. Regardless of how one chooses to interpret the right to bear arms clause in the Bill of Rights or the right for folks to be able to enjoy hunting, there’s got to be some common sense solutions to bring forth a modicum of gun control. Too many people have needlessly died at the hands of people wielding assault weapons. When will we have the moral courage to stand up and say, “no more”? 

There’s so much to do in order to offer confession, reconciliation, hope, peace, safety, and (in time) forgiveness. We have unfinished business, church.

Unfinished Future

There’s unfinished business when it comes to foster care–and I haven’t even started my new appointment! There’s 150 kids in Georgia who, every month, spend the night with a social worker in a hotel room because there’s not enough foster parents in Georgia. Even then, there’s not a sufficient pool of foster parents to place kids in their region of the state. We need churches that want to be engaged in vital ministry in their communities. We need to recruit caring people to be trained as foster parents or be trained to support foster parents. The more I learn, the more excited I get about this vital work.

Greater Things Are Yet to Come

Maybe another way to think about “unfinished business” is through the lens of “greater things are yet to come”. After all, Jesus did say that we will, empowered by the Spirit, be able to accomplish more than he ever did. I’m not sure we’ve gotten there, yet. But maybe it’s not so much about the destination as it is the journey. It would behoove us all if we remember that as we take each step we go with God. We are not alone. God willing, New Church will never be a finished product but will continue to grow and evolve as the Spirit guides and the community responds. Regretfully, there will probably always be one form or another of extremism with us. It’s having friends who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual that that helps us remember individuals whenever we become numb to endless news cycles. It’s in knowing people who practice Islam that we come to understand that faith in its not-extremist forms. It’s in getting to know folk whose family has been impacted because of someone wielding a gun in order to hurt others that we understand that the common good might call for changing our laws. It’s in getting to know a child who smiles, again, that we learn about the need to provide a safe, loving home.

Maybe we need to walk and talk enough together until we can see each other as child of God and affirm the good that is done. Maybe then, in those deep relationships will we be able to begin approaching, collectively, the greater things that are yet to come and the unfinished business gets completed in manner that calls upon the Spirit-prompted, collective will and work of many.