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Disagree in love and respect for the other

by | Aug 6, 2014 | Uncategorized

once dividedA letter from Central East District Superintendent Bob Burns

We can be inspired in the most unusual locations (and by the most unusual things.) Yesterday we visited a college classmate of our daughter and her husband at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The classmate is an Army doctor serving in a Medical Fellowship at West Point. As we toured the grounds near the Cadet area we were able to visit Reconciliation Plaza.

reconciliation plaza300The Reconciliation Plaza Memorial was a gift of the USMA Class of 1961 to honor the Class of 1861 and those who lost their lives in the Civil War and the Vietnam War. But the memorial spoke volumes to me about more than lives lost. In 1861, just after the Civil War began, Cadets at West Point and the graduates of 1861 had to determine whether they would serve with the Union Army or the Confederate States of America. It is an amazing story to me that the graduates who left to serve with their home states were allowed to freely walk away and join the Army of the Confederacy. These were the days when Army officers conducted themselves as gentlemen in their daily discourse. Even with grave differences separating the graduating class from April until May and June, 1861 the traditions of West Point were retained. When graduates marched off the grounds of West Point to join either the CSA or USA, they continued to be a band of brothers.

And after the Civil War, the rush toward reconciliation of the Nation was led by some of these West Point graduates. It seems to me that if these West Pointers can reach across their differences to reconciliation we in the Church should take inspiration from them.

We have many differences dividing us in The United Methodist Church. Differing views on marriage equality, immigration, homosexuality, and impoverished people are among the most obvious issues. Bishop Bob is calling upon us to sit down together at table and learn ways to talk about our differing views with respect and dignity, even as we may remain divided on our conclusions. This idea of civil discourse or holy conferencing is not new, but it needs to be applied in new ways for a new day. We can no longer “go to our corners” and refuse to talk with the other side on an issue.

If Cadets at the United States Military Academy and Officers of the Union and Confederate armies can learn and demonstrate the way towards reconciliation, then there is much more probability we in the church can be reconciled to one another. We don’t have to agree, but we have to agree compassionately to disagree in love and respect for the other.

I invite you to join me and your brothers and sisters in the faith to find ways to be reconcilers and be always willing to come to the table to have conferences bathed in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that we can be those who lead in discussing our different views. I believe we can share our faith in the midst of our differences and pray that we are not divided by them.

God bless

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