My New Friend Don

Dear Rose Park,

Last night I attended a meeting at Fellowship Reformed Church. The meeting’s content was an update from the Vision 2020 Team. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, I’d highly recommend you follow the link at the bottom of the page to a recent article from the RCA website. In short, in light of some deep divisions in our denomination a team has been formed to consider the future of our denomination. Last night’s meeting was an update from that team. The meeting began with lament. The meeting endured intense moments. And because of my new friend Don, the meeting ended with hope.

Don Bruggink is a Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology at Western Theological Seminary. I had seen Dr. Bruggink around the seminary while I was a student but had never been formally introduced. Last night, I sat next to Don and had the opportunity to chat with him during the discussion portion of the meeting. Don is a gracious individual, a humble listener, a faithful servant of the Lord, and a wildly intelligent man.

One of the great concerns is that there will be a permanent split or departure of churches due to our deep divisions regarding human sexuality. Naturally, this causes a deep emotional reaction. I love the Reformed Church in America. It’s the denomination I was raised in as a follower of Jesus. It’s the denomination I was trained in as a seminarian. It’s the denomination I was ordained in as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. In light of these divisions it can be so easy and tempting to feel hopeless as we seek to agree. It was this feeling I had, when my new friend Don took the microphone.

Don stood tall and held the microphone close. By the way, Don has a great voice. It’s one of those voices that when you hear it, everyone listens. Don essentially said this: the heresy we perceive to be occurring in our understanding of scripture pales in comparison to the heresy of division. In other words, we are putting too high of value on agreeing and not enough value on unity. If this sounds odd it’s because we assume to be unified is to agree. However, these words are not synonyms and you do not need to agree in order to be unified. In fact, we can disagree and still be united. We can disagree and still find unity in Christ. We can disagree and still love one another. We can disagree and still be friends. I was so glad to hear a few voices say “amen” when Don gave the microphone back.

I believe this is exactly what Paul meant, when he wrote these words to the Colossians: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:13-14).

In this critical moment in time, may each of us be filled with the Holy Spirit to bear with one another, to forgive one another, to put on love, and to be bound together in perfect unity. Paul wrote these words thousands of years ago and it’s still relevant today. My new friend Don spoke of it last night and it’s just as meaningful.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Mark

For further information on the Vision 2020 Team, please follow the link below: