October 22, 2020
In August of this year, the church session asked for your prayers as we spent time in Bible study, prayer, conversation, and discernment on the topic of same sex marriage. We engaged in this process at the request of members of the session who were not a part of the discernment, prayer, conversations, and study the session engaged in back in 2014. Because your session, elected by the church body, is an inherently transient body comprised of individuals serving three-year terms, it is sometimes the case that we need to revisit and review actions taken by previous sessions. This is normal and to be expected.
It is important that we continue to speak with one another and listen to one another, especially in areas where there is a diversity of faithful convictions in the congregation and amongst the session. The session’s recent study, listening and discernment process was one such case where we learned, prayed, spoke and listened, and simply did not agree on the topic of same-sex marriage. As you have read in the letter from the session, our experience in 2019-20 was very similar to our experience in 2014; with a wide variety of convictions, thoughts and beliefs present in the room.
As we move forward together, I want to share just a few thoughts in addition to the statement made by the session. First, I think you should be proud of your session. Their love for Jesus, for the church, and for one another was evident even in the midst of a passionate and sometimes painful discernment process. They are women and men of conviction, faith, intelligence and love, and have, in my opinion, served you all well in this process.
Secondly, I think this process has pointed me to the desires and convictions we share about the kind of congregation Jesus has called us to be, more so than it has highlighted the convictions and interpretations of scripture we do not share. To put it another way, what I have seen is that we are united on many more (and more important) matters than we are divided. Specifically, we all want to be:
- A congregation marked by loving others the way that Jesus has loved us. Jesus loves all, welcomes all, calls all to himself, and rejoices when any of his children come home to him and walk in relationship with him by faith. We want to be a congregation that lives out Jesus’ New Commandment to love everyone the way he loves us.
- A congregation grounded in God’s word to us. Scripture is the rule for life and faith in the church and we all believe God’s written word to us is trustworthy, Spirit-breathed, and authoritative for ordering our shared life together.
- A congregation that allows for diversity of conviction on non-essential issues and demonstrates unity and generosity in orthodoxy. Let’s face it: it is simply easier to live with people who agree with us on things we feel passionately about. It is much more challenging to seek to understand why someone agrees with us on Jesus but disagrees with us on a particular theological or social issue. We want to be a community that is committed to one another because of Jesus Christ, and who are willing to hold our convictions both passionately and humbly when we discover areas of disagreement.
These shared core convictions are powerful. They were incredibly evident to me as the session did its work. They are more significant than the places where our convictions are not shared.
If we hold these shared convictions together unwaveringly, we truly do not need to fear engaging in conversations with one another where we disagree. We can trust that the Spirit is at work as we speak with one another, listen to one another, and love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, even where agreement is not present.
The Bible speaks often and strongly about maintaining the unity of the body. I support the session’s commitment to foster greater unity within First Pres, while embracing and honoring a diversity of opinion. I invite you to be a part of this shared journey of discipleship.
Grateful to be following Jesus Christ alongside you,
Rev. Dr. Chris Griggs
First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn