I think the vote was wrong. I think we are now that much further from the church Jesus founded on his own passion for lost human beings, his overwhelming burden of love for a lost world. We have one more callus of bureaucracy, hierarchy, and institutionalism to strip away before we can feel as he feels, serve as he served. And we continue to insult millions of women who serve the church worldwide, both professionally and as volunteers.
So what can we do? What do we do now?
Since this is, in fact, the other shoe I expected to fall last year, it's only fair to revisit the bold vows I made then, in anticipation. It's time to see if I can keep them.
This is what I wrote last year. And once I get through the frustration of today, I'm going to take a deep breath, and do as I said I would:
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------(from October 6, 2017)
I'm going to stay here. Right here.
This is why:
1. This is my faith.-- I may not agree with church leadership--hey, I might not even follow. But it was never about policy. I'm not here for the organization, I'm here because of the faith. The ideas I value most are at core of Adventist doctrine--loyalty to Scripture over creeds, the God who loves us, and saves us based on his own merit, not ours. A God who offers rest (Sabbath), who values our free will enough to die for it, who has the answer to all our pain (Second Coming).
2. These are my people.-- I belong to a local community, and they are my church. In fact, I've been to a number of local communities where I have belonged. I know there are local churches where I might not fit in. It's okay. There is no one person, not even a committee, who gets to determine what Adventists must be. The body is bigger than those voices. I won't give up a real, living community because of a committee of people I've never met.
3. This is not the end of the story--Churches change. This one has been worse in the past, and it will be better in the future. I don't know how long it will take or how hard it will be to pick ourselves up off our faces from this crisis. It will depend on other people's choices how far in the hole we get. But we've dug ourselves out as a denomination before. We'll do it again. There are better days, and more benevolent leaders, ahead.
So I have a plan for what happens after Annual Council. This is what I'm going to do:
1. I'm going to recover. I don't know how long it will take. I don't know how I'll feel. Luckily,I know at least that I can recover from a bullet-wound to my church loyalty. Time helps. So do walks outdoors, a blanket and a tea-mug, music, and time with friends.
2. I'm going to worship. My faith isn't built on the work of committees of (mostly) men in suits. It rests on the generous and profound grace of God. It's about this Jesus who loves me personally, and who's promised to come back and fix the messes. The equality of men and women is only an outworking of the gospel. I plan to spend time submerged in that gospel, to remember why it matters, as well as what matters most.
3. I'm going to love my church. It's been a stressful ride for all of us. It's now when the church family needs one another most. So I'm going to stay engaged, nurture friendships, listen, and pray. I'm going to remember that my "church" is not out there somewhere, it's right here.
4. I'm going to keep working for what I believe. This isn't the end of the story. I think the church's rosy future is still a long way out, but I can work toward it. I'm going to preach when asked (and I might go and offer). I'm going to write and speak what I believe. The idea of equality is getting stronger, in the world as well as the church. I'm not going to give up on it.
This is my plan. I don't know the future, but I've decided to be in it. I'm choosing to control the one thing I can--my own actions. Maybe I'm a lightweight, but I'm going to swing that weight toward the better elements of my church.
That's my nuclear apocalypse--I mean, Annual Council--survival plan. I plan to survive (and get to better days somewhere--perhaps far--on the other side).
I hope you will, too. I could use the company.