How can we engage constructively with people with whom we differ? Much of what passes for engagement these days seems to be nothing more than a shouting match on social media. We like to think we treat people with respect, act in good faith, value dignity, honesty and integrity, but do we put those principles into practice? Are relationships within the church any different from those in wider society? How do we engage with one another, especially when we differ?
Our theme for 2019 is ‘Generous Hospitality’. It is a mark of who we are called to be as Christians and provides a starting point for thinking about how we might create communities that reflect the teachings and actions of Jesus.
In 2017 the General Synod of our church endorsed ‘Being Together’, which has also been adopted in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland. It is a set of guidelines or expectations for relationships and interactions within the Church. In short, it guides how we behave towards each other and tries to ensure our actions are consistent with our faith.
Sometimes we react to bad behaviour with equally poor actions. Intentionally breaking this cycle can lead to remarkable breakthroughs. If, instead of payback, we respond to negative behaviour by respecting the other person and without threatening, belittling them or humiliating them, then that can open constructive ways forward.
Speaking to each other with integrity and honesty and refraining from speculation and gossip are also principles of ‘Being Together’. This can make a big difference to the quality of relationships in a community, church or otherwise.
‘Being Together’ invites us to renew, on a daily basis, a commitment to value the wellbeing of others and to consider the impact of our behaviour on others and to encourage others. It affirms the fundamental human principles of respect for each and every person and recognises everyone’s dignity, irrespective of ability, gender, sexuality, race, age or status. This outlook can make the world of difference.
Conflict is part and parcel of human relationships and it inevitably occurs within the Church, too. When we are prepared to accept responsibility for our part in a conflict – even if it was not all of our own making – and when we were are willing to play our part in resolving a conflict with love, forgiveness and healing in our hearts and minds, then new beginnings are possible.
Jesus said and did a great deal to point us in the right direction.
He reached across commonly accepted differences and broke down seemingly insurmountable barriers, extending God’s love and acceptance to those regarded as unlovely and unacceptable. He shared meals with all kinds of people, including some regarded as beyond the pale.
2019 is an opportunity for us to embrace the simple (to understand) but difficult (to do) teaching of Jesus to love one another. To be generously hospitable people, both as hosts and guests, can create a climate where joy, peace and faith become contagious throughout our churches and send ripples of change across the pond of wider society.
With every blessing for 2019,
Archbishop Phillip Aspinall
Join Archbishop Phillip Aspinall on 15 February between 5.30 pm and 8.00 pm at St John’s Anglican Cathedral to launch the 2019 theme ‘Generous Hospitality’. For more information, see Facebook.Jump to next article