(Editor’s Note: The following Letter to the Editors refers to the first installment in our “Vital Conversations” series of faith commentaries, which is sponsored by Phillips Theological Seminary. NonDoc runs Letters to the Editors up to about 250 words. To submit a letter for publication, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I enjoyed the commentary by Mr. Peluso-Verdend on Sept. 9, “‘Vital Conversations’ Help Spiritual Minds.” But, the presupposition that the decisions we make in churches that may cause division indicate what is of more importance to that church seems unfair.
In my experience, I’ve noticed that a church will certainly rally around an “emergency” or “crisis” cause to help the poor, and even more so if the event was caused by some type of catastrophe. Both money and time are freely given. When there is a cause that can’t be fixed quickly with money, goods or time, it seems that interest will peak quickly as the opportunity is presented, and then begin to wane over time, even with the best of intentions.
With a few exceptions, I believe this type of cycle of helping the poor becomes a part of the identity of almost every church congregation, such that there is nothing to distinguish that congregation from being any different from any other congregation on that front. It simply can’t cause a schism because everyone falls in line.
But abortion and sexuality, equal rights, racism: Those are concerns that are featured in all the media on a daily basis, and by their nature inherently divide. I’m not certain that one can assess the importance of what matters more to a church by what theological and/or cultural device might be influencing division versus how much attention is given to the poor.
Doesn’t human nature just dictate that this is how it’s going to be?
Perhaps the conversation should center more around how churches can learn to exist in that disunity, and, in turn, more focus would shift toward how the needy can best be served.