On Tuesday of Holy Week, while Art was bringing us into the Lord’s teaching on the last days, I was feeling for our denomination, the Brethren in Christ.
The BIC has had a lot of losses. Last year two of our bishops resigned, including the one for our conference. They resigned under protest and then would not tell us what the protest was about. A financial officer also resigned from our General Church Leaders, which made circumstances even more suspicious; this has also gone unexplained, even in the offical explanation. Now the bishop of the Southeast Conference is retiring, which makes one wonder how those Spanish speakers will relate to English speakers without their mediator. Rumor has it that the Canadian Conference is going to separate, mainly because Canadian and U.S. laws make it hard to stick together; that is a loss, too. Our General Conference Secretary will be gone this summer; the Moderator is leaving early next year. Is this the end of the BIC?
Let’s talk about it. The essence of being a human who is not independent of God is communication. God calls us and we respond. God reveals and we see and listen. God is a mutually-intending trinity who is in a dialogue that defines each member as they relate. People and institutions who are made in God’s image have a character that reflects God, in that they speak the truth in love as a core feature of who they are. Conversely, systems that communicate in monologue and avoid dialogue are oppressive and destined for death.
At our recent regional conference, to which I was not able to go, those who represented Circle of Hope came away uniformly aghast. A consultant was hired to give a speech that was so strangely coercive they could not figure out what he was doing. He was calling for courage in suffering and for a willingness to forgive, and he cried three times while he was calling for it! But our delegates could not figure out what he was talking about. We haven’t been told yet what we are suffering or what we should forgive!! There was a whopping fifteen minutes allotted for discussing the major changes that have been going on. Our new bishop and the General Secretary were there and stonewalled the whole process. They apparently had a deal to give no information at all! Someone stood up to ask why our bishop resigned and they received no answer. Someone told me they heard that the practice of denuding the conference landscape of dialogue is mainly a BIC Atlantic Conference habit; other conferences actually confer at their conferences. Our contingent was so visibly distressed at the behavior of the conference leaders that a kind heart decided to take them out to lunch to cheer them up! Is this the end of the BIC?
We’ll see. At the beginning of Lent, Circle of Hope Broad and Washington explored the healing of the man blind from birth. People asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “This happened so that the glory of God would be shown.” That was a good answer, Lord! Thanks! When we ask the question, out of our despair and confusion, “Who caused the blindness of the BIC? Is this the end of the BIC?” We may want to get an answer. But, ultimately, Jesus is probably going to answer the same way he answered other short-sighted followers in the past: “I don’t need great circumstances to show God’s glory. Don’t get stuck in your interpretation of the present situation.”
He was saying similar things to us during Holy Week. On Tuesday, Art taught us, in Jesus’ stead, that the “end we dread is not our end.” Jesus has opened a new way. We need to watch, not fear. On the night Art was leading us I was thinking about the BIC. We love the BIC and we dread the end our leaders seem to be making of it. Most of us have never experienced such persistent lack of wisdom — or whatever it is that may be happening once we become privy to it. We have surely not experienced asking direct questions to our leaders and discovering that they have a mutual commitment to not trust us with the truth. It is astounding.
If God wants it all to end, it will end. But it is probably just a time to change. It is time to move with what the Spirit is doing next. It is a time to see God’s glory displayed in another surprising way. I take heart in what happened last week. On Tuesday things looked confusing and dark. Jesus revealed mysterious prophecies. On Sunday He rose from the dead.
I dread the end of the BIC. But what I dread is not my end.