How do we foster better conversations among different churches and Christ followers in Vancouver about issues that matter that will lead to personal and collaborative action? That question in part is what has prompted me to work alongside Flyn Ritchie in curating a weekly opinion / editorial column in the Church for Vancouver (and on the CityGate Vancouver website). In this column, different people that I am meeting in my role as director of CityGate Vancouver will be invited to speak to the Church in metro Vancouver. My hope is to invite people who have a vital word for our city to write an article that will stimulate our imaginations for how we might share in God’s restoring work in our city.
The arrival of Covid-19 has both exposed and accelerated the shifts we need to make as the Church in this era of the fading of Christendom. The transitions called forth in this past year of Covid-19 have added to years of transitions as we adjust to a shifting cultural context. For all of us, this had caused times of disorientation. One temptation during these times is to batten down the hatches and put up the barriers outside of our own tribal groups. In this column, we are seeking to resist that temptation and to instead open up dialogue about the creative shifts we need to make as the Church in order to more fully participate in the mission of God and the Spirit’s renewed humanity. Towards that end, we do well to learn from and listen to one another more carefully as we collectively discern how to participate in the divine reconciliation through Christ. Indeed, one of the gifts of these disorienting periods is that they remind us of our need of each other.
Let me warn you though. You will not agree with everything you read in these editorials! In seeking to address important issues like affordable housing, food security, reconciliation with First Nations, meaningful employment, inequality, climate change, or secularism, we can anticipate that we will advocate for differing responses. Indeed, I doubt that I will agree with everything that is written. Part of the intention behind this column is to foster more dialogue about important matters that we will not all agree upon. In his excellent book How the Body of Christ Talks, Chris Smith writes that his church describes itself as “a manifestation of the presence of Christ in this city because….no church –neither ours nor any other – is fully equivalent to Christ’s presence.” We are the Church together. We not only have much to learn from one another, we come closer to representing the fullness of Christ when we are talking and working together.
What is more, we have a clear reason to dialogue about areas of disagreement given Christ’s call for us to be united in and through him (see John 17). Indeed, in our increasingly polarized society, I believe that one of the distinguishing marks of the church should be a willingness to keep talking through our disagreements so that we can walk alongside one another and work together where possible. I know that is not always easy. I know that it can be frustrating when you disagree deeply with others. Nonetheless, the willingness to take a deep breath and keep talking lies at the core of our discipleship. Unity is Jesus’ idea. If we do not keep talking, it is difficult to imagine how we can bear witness to the good news that God is reconciling all things in Christ.
My hope is that you will use these editorials as stimulants for discussion with others. One idea is to bring them to your church staff team meetings, a home group, dialogue with your neighbors or workmates, or into a conversation with folks from another church near you. These editorials are talking points intended to create conversations, not to shut them down.
The organization I am the director of, CityGate Vancouver, has a vision to help connect the church with our city for transformation. In my thirty years of pastoral experience, transformation so often begins and moves along because of Spirit inspired and led conversations. I trust that Creating Conversations might be a step towards better conversations. My hope is that these conversations will contribute towards actions that leads to transformation for us and for our city.
This article was originally published in Church for Vancouver.