Saturday, January 28, 2006

Agree To Disagree

So i've made a few references here and there about this event that i'm a part of putting on. It's kind of like a conference except it's alot more interactive among the participants. The focus is on looking for indications of hope and life in the city of Los Angeles. We're bringing together different sectors of the city as well as different theological streams of the Church. This is something that is put on in several other major cities around the world and the planning teams typically have 1-2 years to plan ahead of time.

We were given two months.

It's been an exciting journey. In planning for this event, worlds constantly collided - anywhere from clashes between theological perspectives, issues regarding the whole gay Christian thing, differences in worship expressions, leadership styles, organizational styles, and even personalities. In the midst of all this clash, I have witnessed God redeeming relationships and situations. I mention all this because we are currently having the event right now - this weekend. My responsibility for the event is to manage all of the logistics and so I happen to have some down time allowing me to write and process recent events . . . .

All of us are pretty exhausted though - emotionally, physically, mentally, even a bit spiritually. I'll be looking forward to taking a couple days off.

One of the major issues that came up during the past two months was that the original location for this event was going to be hosted at a church in Los Angeles that is known to be gay-affirming and has a gay pastor. That raised a red flag in several people and so a decision was made (without discussion) to change the location. This is what I articulated in "Profoundly Offended". Since then, the team met through the Christmas and New Year holidays, wrestled over the issue together and we were able to form a kind of bond with each other while being able to move forward. We learned how to work together even though we may disagree on certain things. The location of where the event is hosted now has worked out pretty well.

A couple weeks ago, I talked about how "Some People Make Me Vomit". This was when some people voiced strong opposition to praying with certain other types of people. Literally, they were not wanting to pray in the same room as "them". At first, the main issue was that they didn't want to pray with people who believed that "homosexuality" was okay. (They were connected with alot of the drama that was happening with the split in the Episcopal Church USA with some of their churches disaffiliating and realigning under the covering of some African Anglican bishops because the American Episcopal Church was allowing gay and lesbian clergy.) So at first, it was a gay issue (even though they say it's a "Truth of Scripture" issue but I say it's an "Interpretation of Truth of Scripture" issue). Whatever. After a lot of conversations and wrestling, they ended up quitting from the prayer team which I felt pretty bitter about because they hindered my efforts and stimulated a divisive attitude towards an event that is meant for unity.

Even through some rather difficult times of trying to figure out how we can function together and even trust each other, we've all been committed to what we're trying to do in this event - which is to identify signs of hope in the city. God redeemed alot of the conflict by bringing about unity among us. This "unity" doesn't necessarily mean that we all agree. It just means that we all have acknowledged our common bond of Christ and our common heart for the city. In this way we have agreed to disagree. In other words, it's okay that we disagree about some things. As long as we remain committed to the cause - the cause of Christ and His will for the Kingdom in our city.

We've partnered with several seminaries, colleges, and universities who are offering their students class credit for registering and being a part of this event. In addition, there are pastors, church leaders, non-profit leaders, business leaders, civic leaders, professors, and even authors that are participating in this event.

Yesterday morning and afternoon was the class portion for the registered students. Then last night began the weekend event for all of the participants. From a logistical point of view, everything ran smoothly! In fact, it was odd. I've organized and planned many events and last night ran extraordinarily smooth. We stayed on schedule - everything was on-time! It was great. I heard some good feedback from participants who found the first night to be very insightful.

*whew!*

Today was a bit more hectic because we had a tight schedule. In the morning, we had 7 panelists comprising of two elected officials, a faith-based community leader, two non-profit leaders, a business leader, and a school psychiatric/social worker. All have had some kind of impact in Los Angeles and so hearing each of their different perspectives regarding the city and where the signs of hope are was very interesting.

A small snag that we hit, behind the scenes, was that the lunch caterer came 45 minutes late which increased a bit of the stress level. An interesting moment that I had was sensing from the Lord telling me to ask the two individuals (who I mentioned before that quit the prayer team - the ones who made me vomit) to pray. They agreed to pray. When the caterer finally arrived, it gave us only 15 minutes until the scheduled lunch time. We had an army of people ready and waiting for them to arrive, so when they finally came, they all worked together to get it all done. Lunch was ready only 5 minutes after our scheduled time.

Having lunch ready was significant because of what was happening next. All the teams were placed in five groups who went out into Los Angeles to visit 3-4 sites where people and/or organizations were working to serve their community. The goal was to actually see, hear, touch, and smell what God is doing out there in the city - outside of the church walls. The key here, too, was that they all took public mass transportation. That's why lunch being on time was important because we were worried about one of the groups missing their bus. Anyway, many of the people have been saying that the experience of mass transit in visiting these sites has added value to what they are witnessing. My buddy is on one of the teams and he shared with me that it was incredible to see Skid Row with his own eyes and to interact with people in his group.

So that's what's going on right now. All the participants are out in the city and I'm here in the command center in case anyone encounters any problems or emergencies. Since everyone has been making their buses on time and making it to their sites, I haven't had much to do - thus, the free time to blog! =)

Tonight, everyone will come back as a group to debrief their experience. Tomorrow, everyone is going on church visits - going to churches of varying denominational and worship expressions. Sunday afternoon, after lunch, they'll return here again to debrief their experience visiting the different churches and to talk about what they all have seen and observed throughout the weekend. Then we'll follow up with a time of discerning how we each should respond locally to what was seen.

The goal for all this is to stimulate ongoing relationships and ongoing conversations. We are all seeing signs of hope in the midst of geographic, ethnic, theological, age, and gender diversity. It's amazing! Let's hope and pray that God continues to open the eyes of His Church in the city and to prompt us all to respond to His Spirit!

4 comments:

Eric said...

UPDATE:

It's finally over!

The rest of the weekend went along with several curve balls and snags but overall we were able to get through things just fine. There were frustrations here and there but it all worked out.

It was interesting to see the way God orchestrated things . . . even from the beginning of the planning stages through the end, He constantly had us relying on Him to accomplish His own will rather than our own plans.

I was constantly reminded of Gideon's army (read Judges 6-7). With 32,000 men, God told Gideon that he had too many men for God to do what He wanted to do. So God filtered through the men and reduced the army to only 300 men to fight off thousands. This way, they couldn't boast about the victory. In the end, of course, there was victory.

It seemed like every time we hit a snag this weekend, we prayed and God took care of it. Even when it seemed impossible - technical difficulties, relational difficulties - it all worked out. In the end, we all knew that none of us could boast about this "event" that "we" put on. God was beginning something among us and pointing all of us - not just the planning team, but all of the participants who are strategically scattered throughout the LA region - in a common direction for unity and purpose.

I'm honored to be a part of seeing how God brought redemption and cohesion when worlds collided. There is hope for God's Church - regardless of how divisive and ineffective it may seem right now, He is moving and stirring and repositioning His people and their hearts for what He intends. Let's be ready to be a part of that ongoing process!

I know that many of you have been praying through the event with/for me . . . thank you!

Blessings,
Eric

Rick said...

Eric-

Reading about your event from your perspective made me wish I knew you better as a gay Christian man. You are a blessing!

Rick

Angel said...

I'm glad to hear it went well, despite some snags ;) Praise God!

Steve said...

Congratulations! Sounds like it was an exciting event. I'm impressed that you made it all work depending on public transit. From my days in LA, I remember getting around on the bus as both a challenge and an eye-opening adventure.