Last week, the latest brouhaha in The Episcopal Church involved the United Thank Offering (UTO). I won’t go into detail, but you can read about it at Episcopal Cafe, and the Presiding Bishop’s response in Episcopal News Service.
The United Thank Offering is an organization in the Episcopal Church that encourages Episcopalians to put spare change into little blue boxes as a sign of thankfulness for life’s everyday blessings. Last week’s issues, though, are not about UTO or the Episcopal Church. Ironically, it’s about change, and it’s not specific to UTO.
It is about fear, anxiety, a lack of trust, and a sense of losing control.
It is about people who feel called to a ministry, and end up claiming that ministry as their exclusive domain.
It is about a lack of civility and discourse, and a ready-willingness to silence perceived dissension or to leave in protest when we feel attacked.
It IS about change.
I have been an Episcopalian for barely ten years, but I have seen it over and over: one person or group misinterprets or over-exaggerates something another person or group did or said or even may have thought. If the offended party is lower on the power spectrum, they walk away in protest, broadcasting the alleged conspiracy to destroy them and their ministry, and how their offender has lost their way. If the offendee is in the position of power, they do what they can to silence the “offender”, malign their motives, and ultimately ostracize them from their community. I’ve seen it at DFMS, in parish ministries, in dioceses, and in religious communities. UTO is simply the most recent example.
It all boils down to a fear of change, a distrust of anyone that suggests change, and an unwillingness to even consider the idea of change.
What ever happened to civil discourse? What ever happened to compromise? What ever happened to discernment? What ever happened to having a thick skin? Wouldn’t it be more effective to discuss concerns or opinions while listening to those of others, rather than leaving in a huff? How does publicly maligning the perceived motives of others help?
Someone once told me to always “assume good intentions”. Someone else warned about “assuming” anything (you know, ass/u/me), and the paving of a certain road. But I think I’d rather be the one that assumes good intentions and ends up being wrong at some point in the process, than the one that jumps to the wrong conclusion and looks like a ass in the end.
Yes, change can be difficult to deal with, especially when “we’ve been doing it this way for [insert insanely large number here] years.” But while you’ve been doing it the same way for umpteen years, the world around you has changed. What you’re doing may be producing the same results it always has (a seemingly good argument against change), but perhaps doing it just a little differently will bring it up to date with today’s world, and magnify the results beyond anything you could have imagined.
This is church we’re talking about about. Why so much fear and distrust? Where is this coming from?
Have a little faith. Have a little trust in those engaged in ministry with you. Don’t create more discord by attempting a public execution and spreading fear. There are better ways to garner support for your cause. Keep the discussion going in hopes of reaching an agreement; once you leave, the discussion is over.
In the end, though, let go of fear. Don’t be so reticent and resistant. Assume good intentions.