Enlarging Our Horizons

These past couple weeks have been quite eventful for Columbus Mennonite Church because of all the press we have received related to my installation.  I really appreciated Joel’s thoughts from last week’s blog about how we might respond to people who do not affirm the congregation’s decision to call me to a pastoral role.  I like all of his suggestions, but I thought I would add one of my own:

+ Practice the discipline of being willing to say “I don’t know.”  I think that too often we approach situations of difference from a stance of competition or debate.  This frame of mind diminishes true dialogue because it creates a system of winners and losers where the goal is less about growth than about digging in to our already entrenched positions.  When we frame these interactions as debates we lose a sense of the growth that both parties can have because, in the end, someone needs to lose.  Being willing to say, "I don't know how to respond right now, but I appreciate that your point has given me something to think about." can both deescalate an anxious situation and create room for the Spirit to move in the hearts and minds of all parties who are involved. 

A couple years ago, I read an interesting book by Michael A. King called Fractured Dance: Gadamer and a Mennonite Conflict over Homosexuality in which the author applies the methodology of Gadamer, a German philosopher, to an analysis of the conversations surrounding Mennonites and sexuality (a bit dated at this point, but still relevant).  I have done a lot of growing and maturing since I first read this book, but what has always stuck with me is the way King uses Gadamer to argue that true dialogue requires an acceptance of our own finitude and an openness to the perspectives of the ‘other’. 

King writes, “Remember, for Gadamer success does not finally require agreement; rather, it takes place whenever those in conversation experience a fusion of horizons such that they can in some way glimpse what the other sees.”  (107)

I love the imagery of a “fusion of horizons” and the way King (and Gadamer) insists that we can be enlarged by the ‘other’ without necessarily giving up our own convictions.  I also truly appreciate that success is defined along the lines of growth for all parties.

There are a lot of things that can break down this vision of horizon-enlarging dialogue, and I certainly recognize that interactions surrounding this topic are often not given the option of dwelling on such holy ground.  Yet when those moments of true dialogue do break through, I hope that we can all be willing, if necessary, to say “I don’t know.” 

In this may we find the humility of realizing that we do not have it all figured out and the grace in knowing that we do not have to.