Saturday, Scot McKnight spoke to the Atlantic Conference of the Brethren in Christ. It was a good, engaging couple of speeches based on The Jesus Creed. I was glad to meet one of my FB friends face to face.
Here’s the “Jesus creed” from Mark 12:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: `Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ` Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Love God, love others. Simple. Scot had a good word. I was happy to be there. But he should not have spoken at our Regional Conference. The conference should have been about the voices of the conferees.
First, I’ve got a feeling that the bishop might have been able to buy us all a copy of the Jesus Creed for the cost of the speeches. I did not check to see what Scot costs. But on Amazon, the book costs about $10 — I guess about 200 of us were there – that’s about $2000. I found Scott engaging, humorous, inspiring; but couldn’t we have received that without losing our regional conference time? — he has DVDs, study guides, the whole thing. Warren Hoffman is not as famous, but his speech was much more relevant and much more worthy of my trip from Philadelphia. Even more, I was happy to hear from the three or so people who had the temerity to squeeze themselves into the brief time allowed for any dialogue our conference might need to have.
There may be more strategy behind the meeting than I understand. I just have a small point: the conference should be about conferring. It seems to me that when I go to a conference of my fellow churches, or when the local church has a meeting to discern and approve our mission, the people I need to hear from are my leaders and they need to hear from me. If we do not have any business to conduct or if the wisdom of the delegates is too irrelevant to consider, we don’t need to have the meeting at all. At the meeting of the Atlantic Conference on Saturday, we ceremoniously seated our Moderator as a member (though not his wife). We did not seat Scot McKnight and he took up all the time! I wonder.
Perhaps my problems stem from the general interpretative place Scott was coming from as he taught us. He had a good Baptist viewpoint, it seems to me. It was all about how God and I relate and then how I relate to others. The problem is that the speech was happening in a conference of a people (among a “brethren”) who are a WE, not merely an aggregate of “I’s.” I’m sure Scott could have extrapolated the point, but the point about how WE love the Lord and others wasn’t the point because WE has become a non-point.
One of the geniuses of the Brethren in Christ is to be such a WE that we keep “brethren” in our name. In a day when virtuality keeps teenagers holed up in their rooms and violence keeps kids in my neighborhood locked in their houses, in which young soldiers are taught to kill people in Afghanistan by operating drones thousands of miles away, we can offer the radical alternative of being a real-time community. I speak up because I think we are allowing one of the most important things we, as the BIC, are given to offer to be eroded and conformed to the godless practices that are diminishing the impact of Christ on this generation. The regional conference is a symbol of our community, a discipline of dialogue, a practice of mutual respect and togetherness. At best it helps form what Owen Alderfer called the “brethren mindset.” If we can nurture that WE-ness it can help us bring the gospel to our time.
Tonight, we of the Circle of Hope, will be listening to Jesus teach his creed in the Temple as he enters his last week. He will be doing it in the midst of the disciples he has gathered, as a WE. And he will be doing it with US, who have become part of the community of disciples he continues to form. We’ll be having a meeting with him, and elemental to what we do will be speaking the truth in love so we can be it and others can see it happen in us.