Facing Division Together

By Cindy Marino

We call it BoOM--the Board of Ordained Ministry. This is my fifth year of serving on the BoOM. Each year we spend two days in February and another two in March at a Candidates’ Conference, selecting your pastors for the future. If you think we in the local congregation have differences of opinion, try getting 52 pastors, deacons and laity to come to some consensus!  

Despite the social and theological issues that divide us, those serving in this most sacred and difficult way hold tightly to the process we’ve agreed upon to evaluate candidates. It isn’t perfect. But we trust God to direct the process to the end that God desires.

In this God-directed selection process, there is great joy and hope in the relationships formed as we do this holy work together. The person seated next to me at BoOM may think differently, but neither of us is there to push for anyone’s personal agenda. Instead, our process prompts us to discern where God is working in the life of those who feel they are called to join us in leading God’s people through ordained ministry. Watching for God’s work in and through these candidates, carries us from a place of contention to a place of compassion, from a place of criticism to a place of curiosity, from being miles apart to moving toward God together.

When I think about the question, “Why Church,” I am reminded that Jesus formed his followers as people of grace and compassion. Spending time together in prayer, worship, study, service and fellowship was a means through which the Holy Spirit formed each one as the person God created them to be.

It’s ok if you don’t agree with someone. There is a way forward: listen for the words behind the words being spoken that contradict your own opinions; accept the person speaking, even if you don’t accept their opinion; consider their circumstances; above all, see them not as a label, but as God’s child. Ask yourself, “What is God asking me to learn through them?”

You most likely will not change another person’s position. But if we, as the church, can model a way to respond to one another in love--rather than react by assuming the worst--perhaps we can have the important conversations that will move us toward one another rather than away. Our United Methodist process of staying connected in prayer, presence, gifts, service and witness is powerful beyond measure. God is directing us to the end that God desires. Glory to God! Amen!