02 October 2007

Savi Hensman on the pace of change

As we move toward a more inclusive church (and the extreme reactions on the right indicate that they know this is where we're headed), it's hard to know when to push and when to wait. In the US, we contend with the tensions of our own internal unity, along with the tensions with other cultures with vastly different attitudes toward human sexuality. The same is true in many cultures, as we balance competing groups and interests.

Here's a bit of a recent essay by Savi Hensman:

Patience is of course needed, and the wisdom to choose when to move slowly and when to move fast. Yet there are serious risks in accepting the human-made barriers and hierarchies which keep people apart. Apart from the harm done to those who are excluded, the spiritual harm people do to themselves when they marginalise or stereotype others should be considered, given the close connection between love of God and love of neighbour. All of us have perhaps benefited at one time or another by being jolted into recognising a common humanity with those whom we would at one time have looked down on or barely noticed.

Greater understanding may arise from observing a previously unimagined reality. For example people who disliked the notion of 'interracial marriage', when given the opportunity to see how love could flourish between a couple one of whom was black and the other white, could be prompted to rethink their assumptions. This only became possible because some people were bold enough not to hide what others at first found offensive.

Indeed, why is that when we look back at struggles for justice or inclusion (arguments over slavery, racism, interracial marriage, divorce, the status of women), we see clearly the fear and privilege of those who resisted the forward movement? Why can't more of us see this in our present struggles? How do we balance moving ahead prophetically with persuading those who might be inclined to move if given more time? How to we decide when to "leave behind" some people, if we have to do that?

These are hard questions, and I'm grateful for Savi's writing on this complex subject.

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