Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is Harmony Always Harmony?

According to Jon Coyne of Jesus First, this past year's cycle of district conventions demonstrated a rare image of harmony in Synod. He pointed to the election of the district president by affirmation in the California-Nevada-Hawaii convention as a prime example of "speaking as one in a positive way." With the election safely passed, he further remarked that "The days of that convention flew by without the discordant sounds of argument and contentious vote."

Now I am the first to be pleased with meetings free of rancor and disagreement. After all, as a pastor, I have lived through too many of these. On the other hand, I must wonder if a meeting completely free of disagreement is always good. By this I mean that when a meeting "flies by" without a single dissenting vote one begins to question whether anyone is paying attention. So often I have seen meetings begin and end quickly without any questions for the single reason that it was late and people wanted to go home. They didn't want to do the hard work of getting to the truth of the matter. So they slid by the easy way just to get to the end of the meeting.

Sometimes the "discordant sounds of argument," as unpleasant as they are, reflect people needing to find the truth and combat error. Using the word "argument" unfortunately casts the entire matter in the most negative light. It seems that every time people disagree the immediate label is "argument and contentious." Emotions inevitably rise as people contend for the truth. Such emotions easily become mistaken for sinful anger. Yet such need not always be the case. Anger surfaced in our Lord as He witnessed the desecration of "His Father's House." Would we dare to label His actions that day as "discordant sounds of argument"?

I fear that the vision in some quarters today casts the ideal future of the Synod largely as one happy family where no one ever dares to disagree. As many know this is still the sign of a dysfunctional system. Harmony for the sake of harmony merely reflects the desire to avoid confrontation. It does not contend for the truth. Hopefully the Synod will not repeatedly frown on the desire among some to press for the truth even when it makes them uncomfortable. We need these voices. Otherwise we will simply slide by into the pleasant white light of oblivion.


Rev. D. Bestul said...

As a pastor of a CNH congregation, I can assure you that Coyne's 'Jesus First' interpretation of the CNH Convention and the supposed harmony in the district and synod is either naive or intentionally misrepresents reality. There are dozens of solid confessional congregations in the district who would all agree that we do NOT speak with ONE VOICE in doctrine or practice in the district or synod. And, 'Jesus First' knows it. Why else would they exist or publish their periodical?
Dennis Bestul, Pr.
Cupertino, CA

Don Engebretson said...

Thank you for giving an honest and realistic picture of the district and its convention as one who knows it first hand. Perhaps I need to add an additional blog post on the need for organizations like Jesus First to present a picture of harmony that is as the *wish to see it* rather than the way it truly is. It seems that part of their strategy is to influence people by painting a picture of the way they would like things to be seen rather than admitting to the deep division and dysfunction that still exists among us. Even Kieshnick was honest enough to acknowledge areas of disagreement in Synod that still are unresolved (e.g. communion fellowship, role of women, etc.)