Charleston. Donald Trump. HB2. Target. Hillary Clinton. Brock Turner. NRA. ISIS. Orlando.
Are you still reading?
I wouldn’t blame you if you’re not. Every time I see one of these words pop up on my Facebook feed, one of two things happen:
1. I quickly scroll past, not wanting to contaminate my day with the most recent issue, person, or group dividing our country.
2. I get sucked into the drama of it all, and likely end up saying something divisive myself.
And yet, I find myself in Greensboro, North Carolina, this week for the annual Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly. Emphasis on North Carolina, because the state has found itself in the center of many controversies over the past couple years.
If it had been my choice, I likely would have Bruce Springsteened my way out of this particular General Assembly in this particular location. Not because I really want to start any controversy or because I want to put my stake in the ground over who can use what bathroom. I certainly have my opinions about all of that, like any good Millennial.
Honestly, I am just tired of division. I am tired of division, and I am not enticed by the prospect of spending a week in a state that has been the source of So. Much. Division.
But, I am not coming to North Carolina to engage in debate. I am not coming to North Carolina to put my stake in the ground.
I come to North Carolina to be with my Baptist family. I come to North Carolina to celebrate 25 years of the movement called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I come to North Carolina, because I know that CBF is a body that builds bridges amidst division, that mends the wounds of hatred, that redeems what we have destroyed — in God’s name.
At CBF General Assembly, I will find friends who fight for the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom that is most comfortable to them.
At CBF General Assembly, I will find friends who will not patronize Target anymore.
At CBF General Assembly, I will commune with people who embrace my calling as a female minister and who hope I will be their pastor someday.
At CBF General Assembly, I will commune with people who struggle to understand how women in ministry can be affirmed in the face of Paul’s words to the Corinthian church.
At CBF General Assembly, I will hug children of God who welcome refugees into this country with open arms.
At CBF General Assembly, I will hug children of God who want to secure our borders in hopes to increase the safety of our country.
And some of these will be the same people.
When I come to CBF General Assembly, I am acutely aware of the differences between each of the people gathered. Through conversations in The Gathering Place and dialogues during workshops, I am reminded of the ways we are divided theologically, politically and ideologically.
But, somehow, when we worship and fellowship together, those divisions fade and something greater takes place: love.
At CBF General Assembly, I bear witness to the great love that moves us to act together in transformative ways. Not in spite of our differences, but because of them.
At CBF General Assembly, I bear witness to the partnerships that grow stronger as we create bonds with one another over a shared desire to follow God’s call to bring healing to our global community.
At CBF General Assembly, I become a part of a much larger story of God’s redeeming work in this world — redeeming work that cannot take place if we give into the things that tempt to divide and destroy us.
I come to General Assembly to find hope. There are people in this world who love each other even when they disagree. There are people in this world who will listen to one another and seek to truly understand where their counterpart is coming from. There are people in this world who know what it is like to be rejected because of disagreement, and work tirelessly (though often imperfectly) to ensure future generations don’t have to experience the same rejection.
I come to General Assembly to affirm that the CBF matters. CBF needs 25 more years. Because this world is too fragile for more division. And I am grateful for the community, collaboration and cooperation CBF has modeled over the last 25 years. I am grateful for the bridges CBF has built. I am grateful for the ways CBF has brought glimpses of God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven.
I come to General Assembly to celebrate where we’ve come. To celebrate the fellowship we have built and sustained. To anticipate the many ways we will grow into the ideals that have shaped who we are and continue to mold us into who we can be.
In a world defined by division, violence and destruction, I am grateful that CBF is a voice of community, peace and hope.
May we always live into this innovative identity. May we continue to be a courageous body that stands with and not against. May we persist in our desire to live into God’s story for our Fellowship.
Thanks be to God.