Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Congregational Dissent

It is amazing how a small group of people can claim to speak on behalf of the congregation – until this is tested by meeting with the rest of the congregation!

I called a meeting of my troubled congregation last Sunday night. My friend Craig facilitated a conversation amongst the membership. He asked my bishop to attend, as well as some other colleagues. And so the airing of opinions began: and people discovered that we are diverse. We discovered that there is no one definitive point of view on how we live as Christian people. We are divided by different generations, by our history, by our theological opinions, and by our family ties. And having allowed the different points of view to be expressed, Craig allowed us to discover our unity of purpose, of faith commitment, and of mission.

As Craig reminded us: difference of opinion is a normal human expression of life. It is how we resolve our differences that is critical. I want to believe that space has been opened up within this congregation for an acceptance of different points of view.


Delme Linscott said...

Praying for you Pete.
Strength and peace.

Anonymous said...

> As Craig reminded us: difference of opinion is a normal human expression of life.

I am concerned that (although I commented anonymously - I am not closely involved with this situation, and have not taken sides) a considered opinion of mine was censored on this blog. My point was - without repeating my detailed examples - that you routinely used judgemental language, while professing to eschew the same. The question is then in what sense judgementalism or non-judgementalism may be advanced in conenction with the issues.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Hello from a fellow Capetonian and sometime correspondent. I looked over this and related posts a few times. Something troubled me, not so much about the issues, but I was trying to identify the difference in "ethos" to my own situation, which seemed to be marked. It seemed to me that you were experiencing the reactions of a power-play -- and a power-play tends to take place where a sense of safety is not built into the system. I had the sense that much of this would be defused in our own situation insofar as the minister is merely a part of the Body, not so much the vision-caster as would seem to be the case in your Church. Yet this is a crude attempt to put into a few words a world of nuances in my own situation that would seem to contrast with your own.

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

Hi Thomas
thank you for your comments. Yes - there is much about power in this church. It is a congregation that took 30 years to build their church - they met in various school classrooms while they tried to get land, and then to raise money for the building (this is in a very poor area of Cape Town).

The struggle is about those who went on the 30 year pilgrimage through the wilderness, and those who have joined the church since they entered their new building.

It is also a struggle between some long serving preachers who held sway for many years, and new preachers who are better educated and eager to offer other ideas.

and so many more layers.... perhaps we could have coffee together sometime so that I could pick your brains.

Steve Hayes said...

In a congregation where I served, I often had Nicodemuses comign to me by night, and saying that "people say" that the services are too long or too short, too early or too late, too charismatic or too staid. Or some other thing. And I would say, "Right, let's call a parish meeting, and then people can have their say and speak for themselves". But somehow when we had the meeting people didn't say what they were said to say.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Steve you are saying it goes without saying that they don't say what they are said to say. You would seem to have pulpit potential. ;-)

Pete I would love to meet you for coffee. Having said this, regrettably I am somewhat "tethered", due to wife M. being seriously ill, and due to the fact that my primary transport is a three-wheel Indian contraption. If the above could be overcome (say if you were somewhere near Sea Point) we might arrange something by e-mail -- my primary e-mail being scarboro[at] I'm harder to reach by telephone at 021-4393209.

Steve Hayes said...

A further observation. Clergy suffer just as much from this disease. I was once at an ecumenical meeting where group discussions were held, with the clergy segregated in a separate group, and the laity were in about 20 different groups.

And the some clergy kept prefacing their comments with "My people..." and eventually I said "Our people are in the other groups where they can speak for themselves. Why don't we just say what *we* think."

Scout with the Cross said...

Hi Pete

Difficult times I am sure, but normally after such times we all come out the other side stronger, as I am sure will be the case with both yourself and the church.

Sometimes there are casulties when power plays happen, but we have to put them behind us, pray for them and move on.

You are in my prayers.