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Jes Kast-Keat has asked Reverend Annie Reilly to write today. We welcome Rev. Reilly.
Yesterday, the report from the Special Council was released. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Special Council was a group convened in Chicago, April 15-18, for the purpose of discerning a constitutional way forward for the Reformed Church in America in regards to human sexuality as it pertains to ordination and marriage. The 74 delegates who gathered represented each classis, regional synod, and (imperfectly) the full diversity of the RCA in gender, race, age, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
This large group was split into smaller working groups, who we stayed with over the course of the weekend. It was very clear to me that these groups were very carefully formed to be diverse, not only in the ways mandated, but also in opinion about how to address this “issue” in the RCA. I went to the Special Council skeptical that we would accomplish anything. I went feeling cynical that I could even allow myself to trust the process, given that we knew so little about it beforehand.
I’ll let you make your own assessment on our success or not, given the report that has been released. I will say that it was a huge mandate, and I found the process to be hard, fair, and faithful during our time in Chicago. I felt seen and heard, and more often then not, respected and even loved.
As a participant in the Special Council, I know that the most important product of our time together should be the report. But it’s not. The report generated is flawed and could never reflect the full nuance of our work. The real success of this council is how we got such a diverse group of people, who fall all over the theological map on human sexuality and hermeneutical approach to scripture, into a room to speak to each other with civility, honesty, vulnerability, and integrity. We were shown the humanity of our denominational siblings who disagree with us. I walked away from the Special Council exhausted and sad, but also with a deep longing to confess and repent.
I have dismissed and dehumanized wide swaths of the denomination, perceiving them as being hypocrites and bigots. This is sinful. This is in direct violation of the vows I took as a minister of word and sacrament to work to preserve the unity, purity, and peace of the denomination. I have spent several hours in the “dark night of my soul” contemplating my own culpability in sustaining an “us versus them” mentality when it comes to how we approach human sexuality. The RCA is my family. My heart breaks for us, for the ugly language we have used for each other, for the hubris, vitriol, assumptions, and stereotypes we have perpetuated. I weep for my own role in this.
Most holy and triune God, who is diversity, who is dynamic, who is enduring: forgive me. I have failed acknowledge that all my siblings have been created in your image and all of us are trying to be faithful to the call that you set before us. Heal our deep wounds; those we have inflicted on others with our words and actions, and those we have inflicted on ourselves with our attitudes and opinions. Cast us not away from your presence. Remove our heart of stone and place within us a heart of flesh; that we may live more deeply into your shalom for us and your church. In the name of your precious Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.