Who can be trusted?
Synod is over!
For me, one of my great concerns was chairing the meeting using the Uniting Church Manual for Meetings and being an effective moderator of the consensus method of decision-making.
I believe that the consensus decision-making process is based on Christian and biblical principles and I am inspired by the words in Acts 15:28 where the Council of Jerusalem, having reached consensus, is quoted as having written, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us.”
I trust that God speaks through the councils of the church and, in particular, where the councils achieve consensus I am loathe to doubt the work of the Holy Spirit.
Clearly in the early Church there were those who doubted the presence of the Holy Spirit in the decision of the Council of Jerusalem because there were those who continued to claim vociferously that gentiles needed to be circumcised.
“Trust” was a word that received quite an airing at the 2007 meeting of Synod and, as I have reflected on the debates, I am convinced that this word “trust” is significant for the life of our church.
If we believe, as I do, that the Holy Spirit moves within the councils of the church we need to trust those who are a part of that council. But, equally, to warrant that trust, those who are members of the council need to honour the trust given to them and to trust that the Holy Spirit will act not only in their own lives but in the life of the council.
This means that members of councils need to be prepared to let go of agendas, change their minds, allow their spirits to be touched and be prepared to share with others how the Holy Spirit moved in the meeting.
In Mark 10:35-37 James and John said to Jesus, “When you sit on your throne in your glorious Kingdom, we want you to let us sit with you, one on your right and one on your left.”
What was their motivation?
Were they expecting, despite what he had said in previous verses about dying, that Jesus was going to win through and set up a new earthly kingdom?
Was it that they didn’t trust Jesus (who had just told a wealthy man to give everything to the poor) to take his leadership seriously?
Jesus’ response indicates that he recognised in James and John a desire to control and, when he suggests that they are called to be servants, him saying, “You have to let go.”
Here it seems to me is a story about trust and a question about who can be entrusted with the authority that comes of sitting with Jesus, with making the decisions that affect others.
I believe that in our Synod and in our congregations we need to be communities that dare to trust those whom we have elected to various councils and committees to fulfil the task to which they have been called.
Will our trust be betrayed? It could be, but the risk is worth taking. The Holy Spirit is not to be taken lightly.
However, the other side of the coin is that if we are entrusted we must seek to be worthy of that trust, understanding that we have been elected to serve God for the sake of the world; we are not there to represent or protect any interests.
At times the Holy Spirit is going to call upon us to have courage to support a new way of being or doing that we would never have imagined we would support – remember the Council of Jerusalem!
Sometimes it is hard to trust that the Holy Spirit is working through the councils of the church. Sometimes it takes patience as the Holy Spirit works through a series of councils and, as with the Council of Jerusalem, we discover the decision of one council is but part of a bigger movement, the creating of bigger idea of God that requires a number of steps along the way.
Do we have the courage to trust the Holy Spirit to work through our church?
If we cannot trust each other and honour the trust given to us, how can we expect anyone to trust us and the message of grace that God is entrusting to us?