Hold your opinions lightly
Listening Hearts Discernment Guideline
Hold your opinions lightly….well, that is easy to do when the opinion is in an area of your life that isn’t too important. Most nights, Scott, Alma and I make a visit after dinner to this amazing chocolate and ice cream shop on the city circle just a few blocks from the hotel. I could take or leave the chocolate shop…but Scott LOVES the chocolate shop. I usually go along to be a good team player, but I don’t have strong feelings about the chocolate shop. Before Day Four, our resolutions were easy to take too. For example, we voted on the trial use of Holy Women, Holy Men–the new version of Lesser Feasts and Fasts that we use for the 7 am Peace and Justice Eucharist at Memorial. That was a nice touch—a resolution on something that touches everyday parish life. However, I wouldn’t have been upset if we limited the use (which we didn’t). Easy to hold my opinion lightly.
But yesterday and today we entered territory where I had to work hard to hold my opinion lightly. We were entering the area of blessing and marriage, the area of the Anglican Covenant, women and minorities in ministry and the area of Palestinian-Israeli relations. More complicated issues. More passion on my part. When we begin to debate the resolution asking for a study on the theology of marriage, I really had to try hard on the “holding lightly” part. As part of Resolution A 050, the work on the theology of marriage was linked with the work on blessing. There was a proposed amendment to the resolution asking to delete the piece of the resolution including the integrated work on blessing. I jumped up to speak against the amendment. Just as I jumped up, I saw out of the corner of my eye that my fellow Maryland deputy, Scott Bellows, had leapt up to another microphone. After I finished my comments against the amendment, I heard Scott speak for the amendment. I knew I had strong feelings about the resolutions. But I also had to pause for a minute. A good friend and fellow deputy had a different view. Could I hold my passionate opinion lightly enough to evaluate fairly my fellow deputy’s opinion? Could I keep anger in check? Could I work together in love?
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “Make friends with your opponent quickly while he is taking you to court; or he will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and the officer will throw you into prison. You will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5;25-26) In my favorite book of the summer, Falling Upwards, Richard Rohr says of this passage: “The ‘opponent taking you to court’ is…a telling description of what we allow inner story lines to do to us. In ten seconds, we can create an entire and self-justifying scenario of blame, anger, and hurt—towards ourselves and towards another. Jesus is saying, Don’t go there! or the judge, officer, and courtroom will quickly take over and have their way with you.” Richard Rohr rightly says that when this happens, we become “our own worst judge, attorney and jury within ten seconds of an offending statement.” (p. 129)
These past two days–and I hope for the rest of Convention–I have been able to catch my inner judge and jury. I have been able to articulate and share my opinions while being able to stay open to the opinions of others. I think why I have been able to do this is because of relationship—especially my relationship with my faithful fellow deputies. When we practice loving one another in Christ, we are able to stay in the conversation, even—no, especially–when we disagree. It probably doesn’t hurt to eat a little chocolate together too.