“Do General Assembly resolutions make any difference in people’s lives?”

Mary Michael has a way of asking essential questions right off the bat. She’s very insightful that way. We were having a conversation last week about the Disciples General Assembly and I was telling her about the work that was done on the gun violence resolution.I mentioned the work and the passion of all the people who spent time crafting various resolutions. “Sounds like a lot of work” she said, “so do the resolutions from General Assembly make any difference in people’s lives.?”

I have been pondering this question over the course of the last couple of days. I keep in the back of my mind the research that tells us that one of the reasons people don’t do church is because they believe that church makes no difference in their daily lives. If the local congregation struggles with this, that struggle is greatly magnified at the denominational level. In our tradition, most of our resolutions are non-binding to local congregations. So, what’s the point?

People come to the various expressions of the church looking for something meaningful, something that offers them transformation. For too long, the church has offered surface level faith and pithy advice. They are looking for something real, for a way to navigate through the complexities of life in a faithful and meaningful way. Adam Hamilton told us on the closing night of the assembly, “It’s hard to soar when you are more comfortable in the nest than you are flying.” I believe most are willing to trade comfort for a deeper faith.

We had some important conversations at Assembly around items such as mental health, the Black Lives Matter movement, gun violence, the tragedy in Charleston, the future of how we gather as church, and many more. It may not make us comfortable to talk about such things nor will we all agree, but I do believe people are hungry to hear and talk about such things. People are hungry to ask and to reflect upon difficult questions. People are hungry to have a lens of faith through which to see and hear how God might be working. I suspect many sitting in the pew on Sunday and many who aren’t have issues such as these on their mind and spirit.

We have access to more information than ever before, but the places where we can have honest, open and vulnerable conversations are quickly disappearing. Jesus did not shy away from tough subjects, nor should we. Jesus was very good at engaging others, often answering questions on the issues of the day with another question. Creating space to engage and to go deeper was one of Jesus’ specialties. He understood that the best awakenings in our lives often come through our own discovery.

Thank you to Mary Michael for giving me cause to reflect. I have yet to answer her question, so I’ll do it here. Yes, General Assembly resolutions do make a difference in people’s lives.

They bring to the surface issues of faith that we don’t always want to talk about. They give us blessing and challenge  to go deeper in our faith. 

They give us permission and space to have conversations we need to have, yet probably would not without some prodding and guidance

They force us to examine our own spirits and our own closely held notions so that we may grow and become more the person God desires us to be

They can give voice to the voiceless

They bring people together who otherwise might not be in relationship or conversation

They enable us to more faithfully have a prophetic voice

I’ll add that we do need to change the process in ways that will make the resolution process more healthy.

To close, perhaps we have thought of a resolution all wrong. The strength of any resolution is not that it ends a conversation, but opens and blesses both a conversation and a conversion to being more than we are today.

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