Last week I wrote about the fact that a church can be an “echo chamber.” Some folks have asked me what I meant by that. Here’s my answer!
I am not long finished with getting to go, as a member of the General Conference Delegation, to all 8 districts in our Conference to talk about The Commission on the Way Forward’s work-to-date. That experience assured me that I am not in an echo chamber but also pointed out the benefits of having the diversity of our church.
An echo chamber is a space or gathering where you only hear things that you have thought or could say. There are lots of echo chambers in our world. In mild form, they are affinity groups, clubs, alumni associations and (sometimes) things like political parties. In strong form, they are action committees, advocacy groups, political parties, and the like. In malignant form, they are closed groups that actively push others away or demonize people who think differently.
Personally, I do not need the church to be an echo club. Jesus calls us to be his Body on earth and all bodies grow and change. Called to be the church we are called to challenge each other to grow in our spiritual maturity, as well as, our understanding of the life God gave us. People can be threatened by that challenge because the world by itself is a threatening place. At times some people simply want the church to be a place of peace. I want that too, but our peace lies in Christ who offers the peace of connecting us to God regardless of our life’s circumstances or differences from each other. The church exists to be Christ’s Body on earth which means that we are called to grow and change and develop. New ideas and sometimes challenging ideas are prompts to that growth. That’s why I don’t need the church to be a place where I only hear what I already know or think.
Healthy churches know that within their memberships there are diverse understandings of even our core doctrinal teachings. When people work to more deeply understand what those core tenets mean – or when they discuss how the church should be shaped – there is always going to be some unease and, generally, conflict. But that conflict can lead to a deeper unity in Christ as we see how we share Jesus in common and that conflict can lead us to new understandings of what Jesus is calling us to be and to do.
What a witness our connection makes as we who make up The United Methodist Church, which is certainly NOT an echo chamber, work to reconcile our differences and work to show what it is to be united in Christ.
Our work not to be a retreat, our work to challenge each other, is a part of our work to lift Christ high and draw all people to the Lord. [John 12:32]
Grace and Peace,
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Hello from Harvey – What an Echo Chamber is to Me
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