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Post Congregational Meeting Reflections

You may not be surprised, but congregational meetings and complicated voting topics are not my favorite experiences. For me, as a long-time member of Grace Chapel and also of the Pastoral Staff team, the two or three weeks surrounding the voting Sunday were intense and unsettling. I am someone who deeply values unity, harmony, stability and teamwork. The problem with bylaw changes is that they are just the opposite—they stress our nerves, strain our minds and rattle our relationships.

I so appreciated the daily reading for June 12th, from a friend’s loaned book entitled Luther’s Breviary: A Meditation for Each Day of the Year. The day’s excerpt was a gift from God, a clarifying reminder, an infusion of hope. “It is a dangerous situation when errors, divisions, and (subgroups) appear among true Christians. These distort people’s consciences and surreptitiously distract people from the experience of God’s Grace in the Spirit and lead them to become involved in exterior matters and works. It is extremely necessary to be vigilant about this situation. It is my sincere advice and also my admonition to you that you keep prepared and that you concentrate on the one main issue of what makes a Christian.”

No doubt, Luther’s comment was intended for pastors (my marching orders?). My Grace Chapel friendships and relationships span a wide spectrum of viewpoints and stances. In some cases, part of my fondness of someone is that we can discuss and debate differences of perspective. I like the candor, exchange, and vigor of the conversation because they care enough both about the topics and about me so that we can wade into the unsettling sea, even when we get over our heads. Such is the respect for God’s people and God’s Word, and our underlying commitment to reach the Boston region and beyond for God. While there are some prickly disputable matters, there are so many over-arching, galvanizing indisputable matters. And so we move on, most importantly beloved by God, leaning on Him to love one another, and extend that love to a confused and chaotic world.

Indulge me one further paragraph on the vote surrounding inclusive leadership, which we recognize as a disputable matter, with people on both sides. I am grateful for a voice in the process—but especially grateful for being part of a church that is committed to biblical foundations of leadership. I am grateful for the exhaustive Elder study on the topic and especially for Pastor Bryan’s clarifying sermons dealing with the most delicate and pivotal of biblical passages. I do not view this at all as capitulating to cultural trends, but instead to reading Scripture discerningly. Way back in 1983, I had the privilege of serving on the GC Elders Committee on the Ordination of Women. Long before then we had many women who served in positions of teaching and leadership. Then, following the Elders’ report, at the next congregational meeting, the congregation voted to ordain women to pastoral ministry. Since then, we have needed to find the best ways to become more consistent and to affirm the gifts and calling of the gracious and patient women who remained unified with us.

I am sure there will be other dicey, difficult decisions in the future, but I don’t know what those will be. I certainly hope that we will be spared from them for decades and decades. Until then, we have a ton of loving, ministering, and serving to do in our neighborhoods and world. Let's press on!

- Pastor Doug Whallon