Over the last four years of parenting, especially the last two as a parent of not just one but two boys, I have realized something: my response is many times the greatest component in defusing or amplifying a situation. Oh how many times my boys have been fighting and I’ve come in like a bull in a china cabinet, and now rather than two petulant children, there are three.
Right now in Adventism the children are having a ‘bit of tustle over the issue of women’s ordination. On both sides I’ve seen various degrees of incivility from the mild quip to downright meanness. I have mourned at the disrespectful dialogue in which I have heard of folk speak against our world church leaders, moving beyond disagreements over positions to personal attacks. I have blushed, no cringed to see magazines distributed around camp meetings & online that have images that provide the subtle indication that a woman who desires to be a pastor is thus desiring to be a man or a lesbian. So much of it is very shameful and petty!
We are at many levels petulant children in a squabble.
And our parents the General Conference it seems have in their response raised the temperature rather than cooling things down.
In the moments when my kids are fighting I want to remind them that they are brothers. I want to remind them of how to treat each other and how to respond to each other. It is very important then in those moments for me to be mindful of my response towards each individual child. It is important for me to be mindful of the words I speak towards them. It is EXTREMELY important that I don’t make one of them feel less than the other!
It seems our parents have struggled in all these areas. We were not immediately reminded that though we were having a disgreement, we were really on the same side and hopefully fighting for the same cause, we were initially reminded of policy. There has been a failure to draw our minds to our brotherhood and sisterhood. The words that have at times been chosen to represent the world leadership have not provided a sense of calm, but at many times have seemed threatening, even to the point where the statement, “this is not a threat” has needed to be made. Finally, through the language that has been spoken it has most definitely felt like there was a superior child and a less than child, even though as we have seen both sides have been unruly.
Let me give an example (this is only an example the two individuals to be spoken of are only representative of the children, not actually the squabbling children) We had two well recognized preachers, two friends whom have worked together in the past on common causes. Two individuals that have at the bequest of the world church stepped forward and provided spiritual guidance to the masses. They preached opposing sermons. Both sermons were against the stated General Conference position: The first against women as pastors, a position out of line with that of the General Conference. The second in favor of women’s ordination a position also out of step with the General Conference.
Our parents though in response to the latter position have used words like “position of dissension” which means “a disagreement that leads to discord.” I don’t believe either individual in preaching their sermons were seeking discord, both were simply expressing their views and interpretation of scripture that BOTH went against the official church stance. The latter position has also been viewed as a position of “ego & desire for supremecy.”
This type of language makes one child feel much less than the other. That both children being out of step with the parents directed points of views, yet one is getting a mighty slap on the wrist while to the other there is silence. Now I know one could argue that, “well one child only called for a different stance, but nothing happened. The other called for a different stance and a whole whirlwind has happened.” And I guess again I would refer to my short experience of parenting do we only deal with a situation when the outcome of wrong committed is bad, or do we deal with wrong even if there is no evident consequence.
Right now the children of our church are in a squabble and we need our parents–our 1 President, 9 Vice-Presidents, & 13 Division Uncles to see us through it, not join in the fray.