This post follows up on a previous post on “a brutal unity explored”. I highly recommend that you read it first, as it provides the conceptual background for understanding this case study. The original post talked about brutal unity as an individual might apply it to their situation in a church or community context. This post takes a specific conflict at a real church and provides extensive discussion of how one individual (the author) is applying the concept of brutal unity to the situation, as well as some discussion of how the church in question might apply the concept within the larger denominational context.
Blessing Same-Gender Committed Unions: That Synod request the Bishop to grant permission to any clergy who may wish to offer prayers of blessing for civilly married same-gender relationships.In keeping with their conservative beliefs, delegates from St. Pea’s and another conservative church spoke against the resolution. Nonetheless, the resolution was passed by a significant majority of both clergy and lay delegates.
Side note: it turned out months later that, according to the denominational rules, only the diocese may dissolve a parish. Of course, members of a parish may discuss what they want to do in terms of staying, going elsewhere, or starting a new church altogether. Nonetheless, for much of the time when we were talking about what to do, it seemed like the church might actually leave the denomination.what if St. Pea’s chooses to leave?
- Do I set aside the standard I hold to in order to stay in unity with the body? (this is brutal unity level 1). Not if they are moving away from dignity, which is how I see it. Thus, one option is ruled out.
- Do I hold on to my standard and go somewhere else more welcoming? This would be brutal unity level 2, where I leave the community I am in and stand in solidarity with those whose dignity is being undermined.
- Do I hold onto my standard and remain part of the community wherever it ends up, as a visible representative that there’s more to the kingdom than a conservative view allows for? This is brutal unity level 3.
what does this look like?
The intent of this article has been to give a practical, extended real-life example of how one person applied the concepts of brutal unity to a particular situation. Other people in the same situation might find that for them, applying the same concepts brings them to a different place. My hope is that through the concepts and practice of brutal unity, that the process will be more thought-out and intentional, and most of all, that there would be greater unity among those who believe in Jesus.
Do the concept of brutal unity seem useful to you? Are there times or places when it could be useful to you or your community? I'd love to hear from you.
Note: my response to the situation is subject to change as the situation evolves.
update (march/april 2013)
Based on contractual agreements, the church is not able to leave the diocese as only the diocese has the right to dissolve a parish. Therefore, as a congregation, we will not be holding any votes to leave or anything else of that sort. However, that does not prevent members of the church from leaving, nor from choosing to start a new church elsewhere. That is what is happening now. It is hard to get a sense of numbers, but about half of the members have left and a significant number of these have started a new congregation.
So the result for us as a family, is that we are staying. The church continues on as before in some ways -- pastors, programs, etc., though with many beloved parishioners gone. Thus, we are continuing with sadness in our hearts and with anticipation of what is ahead now that – while still a conservative congregation – we have become more moderate overall.
update (summer 2013)
Despite the church having decided to stay in the diocese, it seems that staying in the church is not working for at least half of our family members. This means many things, from "how can we as youth be asked to invite friends to youth group, when the grownups upstairs are splitting over same-sex blessings?" to the aftertaste of the conflict which remains and is toxic for some, and other concerns unrelated to the split. So we talked as a family, made our decision, and moved on with sadness, as we do have friends who are still at St. Pea's and there are many good families attending.