This has created some difficult and sometimes divisive conversations within the PC(USA). As most of you know, I am attending a Presbyterian seminary, so these conversations are happening here too, in our classrooms, in our chapel, in our cafeterian and common areas, and on-line.
A few weeks before this passed, I co-wrote an article in our student newspaper with one of my classmates calling for unity, civility, and recognition of our shared humanity. Below is the article. I welcome your feedback:
Civility, dialogue and listening: Reflections on the first year experience
by: Greg Allen-Pickett and Barrett Abernethy
We were reflecting on our first year at APTS and one word came to mind: blessed. We are blessed to be at an institution that upholds civility and dialogue and teaches us how to be active listeners. We have experienced this both inside and outside the classroom.
We are also blessed to be part of a unique and diverse junior class that contributes to a unique and diverse dialogue both in and out of the classroom. Just last week in Systematic Theology 2, Dave Jensen implored us to break bread with someone we don't like. He said in principle and in practice it is important to break bread with those who irritate us. Through breaking bread, sharing a meal, we are able to see the underlying humanity of even our strongest ideological foe. We are able to recognize that we are connected through that humanity and through our faith and despite our differences, we can learn and grow together. We may never come to agreement on a particular issue, but we can hear each other out, engage in civil dialogue, and learn from one another.
We feel blessed to be learning at a seminary that started the Queer Alliance just a few short months ago and are excited to see the traction that the group has gained through argyle day, the shower of stoles, the Kairos last week, and the service we celebrated on Wednesday. As Amendment 10a is working its way through the Presbyteries, and our denomination along with many other denominations and churches are debating and struggling with these issues, we feel blessed to be at a place where we can share a civil dialogue about it and actively listen to all voices.
We feel blessed to be at an institution with students that don't agree with Amendment 10a or gay marriage, that our collective shoulders are broad enough to support people on both sides of this issue. It is through difference of opinion and belief and through open and honest dialogue that we can learn, grow and flourish. Even if our differences don't always end in agreement, the dialogue itself, and the people engaged in the dialogue have intrinsic value.
We feel blessed because we are learning how God works through the multi-faceted expressions of faith by people who have opinions or viewpoints that are different from our own. We are learning that someone reading the same Bible as us can come to a different conclusion, and while we may not agree with that conclusion, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ and ultimately we are doing our best to live out what that means individually and collectively. Though we may fundamentally disagree at times, a monologue of thought only leads to fideism, and we at APTS proudly stand and shout Fides Quaerens Intelectum!
Austin Seminary prides itself in preparing its students for parish ministry. What better reflection of parish ministry is there than an environment that has diverse viewpoints, and what better skills to learn while we are here than learning how to navigate those viewpoints with the civility, dialogue and active listening that we are learning right here and right now.
We issue a plea to the APTS community to acknowledge these blessings and to ground their agreements and disagreements in love and recognition of our shared humanity and faith.