Friday, October 1, 2010

Turning Difficulty into Unity... With Jesus

Yesterday, Thursday, was a long and difficult day. Rebekah and I left the house at 7:00. We were headed for St. Petersburg, where the Presbytery of Tampa Bay - the 80-some PC(USA) churches in the greater Tampa Bay area - was scheduled to deal with some contentious issues. On the way home I dropped Rebekah off at church for an evening meeting; she didn't get her long overdue cup of tea till well after 9:00.

The back story to yesterday's Presbytery meeting is complex, convoluted, and - at times - murky. But the foundational idea - a clarification of our mission, a redefinition of how to implement that mission, and a new model of how we will be organized - has been long overdue and was enthusiastically received.

Some folk, however, both elders and ministers, had become enmeshed in politics, personality issues and the choosing of sides. We witnessed the application of pressure, hidden agendas, power-brokering, veiled threats of repercussions, grandstanding, the introduction of motions and amendments designed to confuse the process, the circulation of carefully nuanced misinformation, and - to use the language of fall football - fakes, feints, end-runs, sneaks, clipping, penalties, hand-offs and blitzes.

Consequently, the three month lead-up to yesterday's gathering was long, arduous, deeply layered and extremely stressful...

But - and this is why I'm sharing this story in today's post - what could have been a terrible day remained difficult - yes - but the process worked out to its conclusion in the context of Gospel, love, respect, reasonable yet passionate debate, prayer, dialogue and the over-arching context of the great Mission of The Church.

And the reason yesterday worked was, in a word, my amazing wife, Rebekah.

Rebekah was elected moderator for Tampa Bay Presbytery for 2010. Even on a good day, being moderator is complex juggling act. Yesterday her task was like conducting a symphony orchestra... while a marching band walks in.... as the football team wants to scrimmage on the stage... and - at the same time - a number of amateur musicians from the audience also pick up their instruments to join in ....

Instead of cacophony, however, the result was order. It was an order that offered the opportunity for all to participate but that required the parameters of Ephesians 4:29-32. Rebekah read the passage at the beginning of the day and dedicated several inspirational minutes to carefully setting the stage:
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Yesterday's long and difficult meeting turned out to be a powerful testimony to what becomes possible when we remember that we are disciples of Jesus in everything that we do. It's OK to disagree, it's OK to feel confused as to the direction we are being led, and it's OK to be at an impasse even with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It's OK. It's called being human, and being real. Disagreement can never be completely avoided.

But what is also possible is unity in the Spirit.

Sometimes such unity requires great leadership. That's one more reason why I am so proud of Rebekah.





7 comments:

Margaret said...

We are all so proud of Rebekah, and proud of you, too. Because without you, she would not be who she is.

Deborah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deborah said...

We are very happy to have both of you leading us at FPCB and in the Presbytery. When you change the Path, you change the outcome. Great leadership in action! Thank you both for caring enough to be the people that you are.

Roy S.A. said...

...And from all eternity comes the phrase, "Your Mine and I Love You."

Doug Hisken said...

Derek,
It seems that we need to read that passage at every meeting. It would bring our focus to the Lord's work instead of our human efforts.
Thanks for keeping me on the list.
Doug from Kansas

Drew said...

How about focusing on the WORD instead of the Book of Order? Which one is thicker? Kinda sad.

Derek Maul said...

That's what was so wonderful, Andrew... It was all about the WORD. The scripture plus great leadership turned things around.

(In related news, the Presbyterian Church are in the process of making the book of order 25% of its size!)