An aspect that makes the Nashville Fellows program unique in comparison to others is its’ ecumenical nature. Out of the three churches partnered with the program one is of the Episcopalian tradition and the other two are PCA (Presbyterian Church of America). On top of that out of us 15 fellows there are many varying backgrounds and traditions in the Christian faith. This was something from the start that drew me specifically to the Nashville program.
Throughout this year we have touched on varying topics within Christian theology ranging from Calvinism in reformed theology, the sacraments of more orthodox traditions, and even discussing things like Pope John Paul II’s reflections on the theology of the body. Often intertwined in these “light topics” we address very “light questions” such as: what is the meaning of life? As one might expect, a question such as this may result in varying opinions and heated discussions, but also very beautiful revelations both internally and externally for each person. I think if any quote sums up the many theological discussions we have had as a fellows group this year it would be that each person has been, “able to agree with the things they do believe in, question the things they’re not sure about, and disagree with the things they don’t believe in”.
I can’t take credit for this quote. It belongs to our ever wise and faithful director Theresa.
This year we have been invited to enter into controversial, joyful, frustrating, enlightening, and sometimes even tiring conversations within Christian theology and the faith our Lord has given us. The Church the Lord has left to us, and the hope that one day Christian unity is something that exists rather than anticipated are things we have been grappling through together.
I know the communication skills I have gained in bridging the gaps of opinions that differ from my own will carry with me throughout the rest of my life (and will continue to modify because I know I am nowhere near mastery of this skill). However, it has been so wonderful to sit in a room with 15 intelligent people each Monday who, agree or disagree and sometimes agree to disagree, on many different topics within our faith. “Our” being the key word we have had to remind ourselves of when leaving a passionate conversation.
Ultimately, we are to be reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many.”
He goes on further to say in 1 Corinthians 12:20-22
“But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand “I do not need you”, nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary.”
In fact I need my sisters and brothers in Christ that I disagree with. When we push away from those we disagree with we do not function as a proper body in Christ with the absence of that person. Instead, we are called to enter into these difficult conversations. I am a lousy eye without my head, and some of these people have become my head (in the most wonderful way possible). I acknowledge that there are differing theologies and opinions within the Christian faith, but I have learned it’s the willingness of either side to walk away with the same respect for the other that they began with. And I will fully admit that I have failed at this, but it is something I will continue to work on.
It is important to remember we are bound in our creed,
“I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
And most of all it is important to remember we are bound in our love for Christ and His love for us.
How thankful I am that the Lord died for a sinner like me.