Why Is Peace So Hard? May 17, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Ecumenical & Interfaith Unity, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Unity, Values
I am writing today from Atlanta (Georgia, in case you were wondering) at the conclusion of the three-day Ecumenical Korea Peace Conference. This has been an amazing — and deeply educational — few days. I know the basics on the post-WWII Korean history — told from the United States perspective. I have been to Korea twice — once in 1994 and again in 2012. The growth and change in that eighteen years was unbelievable. I’ve been aware of the past couple years of “news” coming out of North Korea, and like most Americans have been deeply troubled. The I came here and talked to a whole lot of people from both North and South Korea. Incredible how little I actually know about anything Korean…
I have been exposed to a steady stream of partial information, mis-information, skewed information, facts and factoids, and a boatload of filtered and fabricated mythology about a country torn apart, divided, dis-integrated, and living in distress. Families separated two generations ago that to this day cannot be reunited without unbelievable sacrifice and hardship. My ignorance of the situation is much greater than my perceived knowledge. I mean, I know the Koreas are still “at war” — armistice is a far cry from peace, and a peace accord has never materialized, ending the Korean War. The need for a peace treaty is critical. And our current sanctions against North Korea are hurting all the wrong people. The sanctions are the most unChristian acts of a supposedly Christian country. None of these opinions have been impacted by this conference — other than to pump up the sense of urgency. No what I take away from this time is a clearer understanding of all the ways it has not been in our interests to end this conflict — we are making WAY too much money to actually work for peace. The demonizing and vilification of North Korea as a media coup is even more sickening than I expected. “Axis of Evil” anyone? Bad judgment and ignorance gets painted as insanity and evil — a much more compelling vision that keeps the misinformed flock glued to the news channels.
Ecumenically Challenged April 10, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Ecumenical & Interfaith Unity, Identity & Purpose, Leadership, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian Community, Ecumenism, Mission & Purpose, Unity, Values
There are few things I hate worse than being sick on the road. My wife and I are in Columbus, Ohio and I determined that now would be the ideal time to get a four-alarm sinus infection. I can’t focus, I can’t breathe, I have a splitting headache… and I am trying to engage in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue with energy and conviction. Not an easy task. I am hearing through congested filters. When I feel bad, I tend to be a bit more prickly and terse, so take my reflections with a grain of salt.
So many of the presentations and conversations feel like they have a “yes, but…” undertone. The words are about unity and collaboration, but the undercurrent feels polemical and a bit competitive. I listened to a Catholic priest explain how ecumenical dialogue never meant anything until after Vatican II, because without the Catholics in the conversation it could never go anywhere. I have been patiently told that the Roman Catholic church isn’t part of the World Council of Churches because it “doesn’t want to take over.” I have had nine conversations where it has been explained to me what “full communion” isn’t — not once have we settled on what it actually IS. Too often, our best intended introductions devolve to explanations of what we are not, instead of what we are. Our crowing achievements are Thanksgiving services and pantries — things we can do together with no real cost or compromise. I’ve broached the subject of “one body in Christ,” and both times the people I have been speaking to turned the conversation to “different parts.” Unity is the abstraction that brings us together, but not the reality towards which we choose to work.
Unoty April 9, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Core Values, Ecumenical & Interfaith Unity, Seeker spirituality.
Tags: Christian Community, church, Unity
I am attending a National Workshop on Christian Unity this week in Columbus, Ohio. It is an annual ecumenical gathering that focuses on how to build bridges, foster friendly relationships, and improve communication between Christian communions. We talk about finding common ground, celebrating each other, and discovering spiritual synergy where together we are greater than the sum of our parts. It becomes painfully apparent how far apart we are — a small group of religious leaders talking about what if and what could be simply illustrates how NOT united we currently are. And this morning a brief encounter shined the light of brutal honesty on the witness we offer the world.
I stepped out of the meeting to respond to a text message, and I stood near a pair of young Latina members of the housekeeping staff at our hotel. When I finished my message, I noticed the young women, and one asked me, “Who are you?” I froze like a deer in headlights for a moment, unsure how to respond. My confusion was clearly displayed, so the young woman unpacked her meaning by asking, “What group are you with? Who are you?” I explained that we were leaders from a variety of Christian denominations and organizations gathered to talk about “unity” and working together. Both young women looked confused.
Narrative Transformation February 14, 2013Posted by Dan R. Dick in Change, Core Values, Critical Thinking, Transformation and Change.
Tags: Christian Education, Communication, Unity, Values
In recent comments, an interesting thread appears: how do we in the church have open-ended conversation about the deepest and most challenging aspects of our life together? Too often, we have no vision for what a new or different conversation might look/sound like. When we think about changing our thinking, we reduce it to changing minds. For myself, I learned a long time ago that it is not my role or responsibility to change someone else, but to create a safe environment where radical change can occur. Change should always be a willing choice, otherwise it won’t last, or it does violence to the person. But how do we even open the possibility of new perspectives in ways that don’t lead to division and debate? I share one exercise and two experiences that have been effective in my ministry.
We v. They September 21, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Communication in the Church, Core Values, Integrity, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Christian Community, church, The United Methodist Church, Unity
Like everyone else, Raleigh Hayes saw the world, and the people with whom he was obliged to share it, through the kaleidoscope of his own colored designs. As the years turned the viewer round and round, the bits of glass fell into new patterns, but the perspective remained limited to Raleigh’s eye. (Handling Sin, Michael Malone, 1983)
Not everyone agrees with this premise, but I am of a mind that everyone sees the world, not as it truly is, but through a set of personal and unique filters that makes an individual worldview. As we encounter others, we bond most closely with those who share key elements of our worldview. This makes for a grand and glorious bell curve of subjective worldviews that we embrace as objective reality. The truth is out there, and each of us brush up against it, but none of us own it. It is through this kaleidoscope effect that we polarize and politicize and project. It creates the frame and forum for “us/them; we/they; right/left; right/wrong” thinking that defines our modern/post-modern U.S. culture in the early 21st century. This comes clear to me as I look at comments made about my reflections on the work of our General Boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church.
Partisan Piety September 18, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Personal Reflection, Religion in the U.S., U.S. Culture.
Tags: Religious Trends, Unity
Concepts of separation of church and state, the divide between science/academia and religion, faith and politics are generally muddy and misinformed. Early attempts to guarantee religious freedom and protect against theocracy have come to mean, in some minds, that the physical and the metaphysical should have nothing in common. And when we blur lines and pigeon-hole positions as clearly one thing or the other, we get in trouble fast. Political labels do not line up cleanly with theological labels, and to reduce people to categories is the worst kind of judgmental heresy. We live in a charged society where we define ourselves as much by what we hate as by what we love, by what we oppose as much as by what we support. Rather than focus on our own attributes and virtues, we waste so much time and energy castigating, attacking and insluting those with whom we disagree. We love living in the polarity — but not the polarity of separate, but equal. Instead, we want to prove superiority over inferiority. We take what we are not and make it a terrible thing that no decent, self-respecting person would ever want to be — like those people over there…
To Rainbow or Not To Rainbow… May 3, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, General Conference, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: General Conference, The United Methodist Church, Unity
I am as divided as my General Conference on today’s protest by the Lesbian/Gay /Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) nonviolent demonstration at GC. Here is proof positive that non-violence can still be disruptive. Whether it was effective is another matter. As for me, I donned a rainbow stole this morning for a while… then I took it off. I am so frustrated that this artificial polarization allows a sympathetic moderate no place to stand (or fall). I have long spoken out against making this “the homosexual issue” because it is a fallacious reduction of our relationship to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. A core question being, are they Christian brothers and sisters, or are we, as a denomination actually claiming they cannot be Christian if they are gay/lesbian? And compounding this tragedy? We think we can settle this “issue” by voting on it! Making the reality of men and women with a gay/lesbian predisposition a legislative contention is self-defeating — and it leads to the kinds of protests being lodged at GC today.
Stand AND Deliver April 28, 2012Posted by Dan R. Dick in General Conference, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: General Conference, The United Methodist Church, Trust, Unity, Values
At General Conference Friday evening, we celebrated (if celebrate is an even moderately appropriate word…) “An Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples.” The people I’ve spoken with about the service (before it began) were of three minds: 1) what was done to Native Americans was horrendous, but thankfully I had nothing to do with it and I love all people, 2) that was then, this is now — what do “they” expect us to do about it now? and, 3) I am so tired of this bleeding heart $#!/ aimed at making me/us feel guilty. In almost all cases — from sympathetic to hostile — the common feeling is “I didn’t do it.” Many people wondered why do “we” have to repent — and what exactly does this mean anyway?
Loser’s Choice August 26, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Core Values, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian Community, Faith Sharing, Unity, Values
One key to our future is the way we choose to deal with one another, and I emphasize the word choose. Often, we prefer to ignore the fact that we choose to react or respond to others as we do. I’ll use myself as an example. The fact is, no one can make me angry; I must choose to respond in anger. No one truly has the power to insult me, but I have unlimited capacity to choose to be insulted. No one has the ability to offend me whom I have not given the power to do so. I am not prisoner to my emotions or responses. I have been saved from such base behavior by a faith that offers me a better way and the power of the Holy Spirit working within me to make me Christlike. I reject the victim mentality that blames everyone else for making me feel bad. To be a victim is to be a loser, and I refuse to make the loser’s choice.
Stop Diss-ing My Church August 11, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Congregational Life, Core Values, Personal Reflection.
Tags: Christian Community, Mission & Purpose, Trust, Unity
We all have a very simple decision to make: will we build or will we destroy. Now, simply making this decision doesn’t guarantee anything — many who choose to build and create don’t actually accomplish much, but at least they try. But those who choose to destroy — or simply allow destruction to happen — are another matter altogether. They disregard basic values of kindness, humility and respect, to breed discontent and dissension, leading to disunity and disharmony. Their energy, it seems, is expended for one purpose — to “dis” the church. Ultimately, such efforts are dis-gusting.