by Caleb Schrock-Hurst
Church Relations and Racial Justice Leader
This past May I had the privilege of spending time in Israel/Palestine. Two sites we visited were the Church of the Nativity and the Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem. Different images now come to mind when I read the Nativity narratives in Matthew and Luke. However, the message remains the same. God has come to us! And God’s purpose is to reconcile us to Himself. In reconciling us to God we have been given the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19).
The message of reconciliation is one we need to hear, embrace, and enact repeatedly. Sin is ever crouching at our door (Genesis 4:7) – the door of our own heart, the door of our relationships with others, and the door of our church(es). The message of reconciliation is a message of truth of what happens, a message of honesty of the hurt, a message of grace, and a message of forgiveness.
The message of reconciliation VMC needs to hear, receive, and enact again starts with recognizing that events in our recent past have shaken our trust in VMC, MCUSA, and each other. Conference Council engaged the services of Gilliam and Associates to help us live into the message of reconciliation again. I hope that you all have had the opportunity to participate in one of the listening circles. This is a vital first step.
We will receive and discuss an initial report from Craig Gilliam at our Winter Delegate Assembly, February 4, at Washington Community Fellowship, in Washington, D.C. My encouragement is for all VMC pastors, congregational delegates, and Cluster Group delegates to plan on being at WCF for this assembly. It is essential that we start the journey of reconciliation together. We need to build new lines of trust as we discuss changes to leadership structures and patterns. We need to acknowledge that the misconduct of our former Executive Conference Minister caused hurt, confusion, and distrust. We need to trust each other in discerning VMC’s response and direction in light of the decisions of the delegates to the MCUSA Special Assembly. For these reasons our Winter Delegate Assembly takes on great significance.
The message of reconciliation started in Bethlehem. Jesus carried that message of reconciliation throughout his life and ministry. That message took him to the cross. Living the message of reconciliation is never easy. But death on a cross surrender to resurrection! The message of reconciliation was empowered by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The message of reconciliation is now ours to proclaim and live. It is still not an easy message to proclaim and live, for it is a journey. Our Winter Assembly is not the end of the journey. It is the next important and vital step for us as VMC as we live into God’s call to be Christ’s ambassadors.