Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Own Op-ED

      --I do not believe Christians have to be in complete unity on every issue. While sin and ignorance are still around, we're not going to agree. I bring my own sin and ignorance, as you do too.
      --I do not even believe that members of the same Fellowship (or denomination) need to agree or be in unity on all things. There are core issues that matter, but other issues where we may disagree.
      --I do not even believe it is necessary to mask the difference. If two people have differing perspectives, it can be good and healthy for those two to discuss their difference in public, where others can gain perspective, as well.
This perspective is not shared by many. While I can be disappointed by some diversity in areas I think our Fellowship should hold in unity, I am most troubled that there seems to be a spirit of secrecy if you disagree. Either you are accused of being a pharisaical critic (a heavy charge in its own right!) or the person blows you off and refuses to discuss or explain their perspective. While we say we want to celebrate diversity and difference, in reality, the climate is set to ignore it.

Reading this editorial piece led me to one of those moments of differing opinion. I would not hold to the author's perspective (either in diagnosis or cure) and believe it could be healthy to lay it out publicly. Here are some reasons why I believe it could be fruitful to draw out these differences:
    1. Ed is secure. As Executive Directory of CE National for the last 30 years, Ed does not need to fear any critique. Possibly in interactions in the past, some pastors have shut things down because they fear unrest from their congregation and believe their position is in jeopardy. Ed does not need to worry about these things. His position is set, so hopefully there is freedom for us to disagree without him having to worry about angry congregants seeking his job!
    2. Ed is wonderful. No one dislikes Ed Lewis. If you've met him, you've seen grace, mercy, joy, humility and passion. I'm leaning on his possession of these attributes, and my pursuit of them, for this to work. If Ed chooses to respond (he clearly is not required), I believe it will be done with continued grace and humility.
    3. Ed is liked. I've known Ed for about 20 years now. Ed has always been friendly to me and even if we haven't seen each other in years, he still somehow seems to know what is going on in our lives! In previous interactions with others, I think they have feared my comments to be ad hominem. I have no such "attack" against Ed (how could you?) and hopefully then, we can just stay to the issue.
    4. CE National has influenced me. I learned a great deal of the New Testament through CE's quizzing program. I learned my love of preaching while participating as a "Teen Challenge Speaker." My wife and I really developed our friendship while participating in Operation Barnabas. My ability to attend Grace College was largely due to scholarships made possible by CE National. Even now, our own youth pastor was trained by CE's "National Institute." Again, there clearly is no axe to grind. Hopefully, readers can give me the benefit of the doubt on this issue.
    5. Ed is not papal. He claims no amount of infallibility. His position is not even one of authority over churches. He is Executive Directory of a non-profit organization. If he is an elder in his church (I don't know if he is), then he has authority over those particular sheep. However, Ed's role is very influential. I would argue that with his tenure and with his exposure, he is easily one of the most influential men in our Fellowship. If he says something, many pastors are going to assume it.
    6. Ed's article was public. You can read it from the link. I received it directly into my email. These are not issues by which Ed is pondering and working out with other men privately. These were his thoughts which were publicly presented to others. Ed holds to these views strongly enough that he was willing to broadcast them nation wide.
    7. I love Ed. Ed is one of the most positive and joyful men I've ever met. His life exudes joy. (The picture could have been taken at pretty much any random moment in Ed's life, not just for posing for a picture. Quite frankly, I kind of assume Ed even smiles like that during his sleep!) That's why the particular article caught my eye. When speaking of the the church, which Christ has said He will build, Ed does not seem to have this typical joy. That bums me out. I think the down nature of the article is due to some mistakes in thinking. I'd love to see the joy back when discussing this topic.
    8. Ed is a man. I emailed Ed this post as well as tomorrow's and Ed responded with great grace. I wouldn't have posted this series without his permission, which he granted.
    9. I love our Fellowship pastors. Ed's discouragement is not his own. It is shared by many pastors I speak to. Again, by posting this publicly, I hope it could serve as an encouragement to other pastors and help reshape their thinking.
    10. I love our Fellowship. However, I don't think it is going to survive much longer if we do not allow open dialogue. Quite frankly, how can you use the word "fellowship" when you can't even talk? I'm one of the youngest teaching pastors in the Fellowship (33 last February), yet if I disagree or ask for someone to clarify things or explain their purposes, I am met with silence, a refusal to talk or emails that respond but never actually deal with the issues. Perhaps the problem is me? (I'm being serious here.) If my tone has been wrong or my methods detrimental, I desire to try it once publicly, so others can help shape me and teach me. I'm at the end of my rope and thought maybe--just maybe--if the problem is me, and I lay it out publicly, others can help shape me before I completely give up on this concept we're calling a "Fellowship."

Lord willing, I plan to address the linked editorial with three posts:
      1. How the diagnosis is off.
      2. How the cure is insufficient.
      3. How the diagnosis and cure are really linked to the same issue.
May it be done to the praise of the glory of His grace!

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