Waiting for reconciliation

It’s tempting to give up on institutions that let us down, but Jesus calls us to remain faithful to the hard task of reconciliation.

By Isa Torres

I am an outsider. I did not live through the experience of the takeover that started in the 1970s. I am not one who saw the emotional and physical expulsion of so many out of Southern Baptist seminaries and organizations.

I am not part of the group that, after being wounded by the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, tenaciously sought to find a new hope in the Baptist world.

Some of my dearest mentors, and friends, suffered through the takeover. I have been with them as they, with tears in their eyes, share what they went through during those years. Confusion, abandonment, fear and anger; sometimes, still, a lot of anger.

Those are the feelings that I have seen in people I have learned to love, care about and be more like. It is incredibly painful to hear mentors, some of them women, tell me about the rejection they faced simply because of their gender.

There is another reason I am an outsider. I am a man. What can I contribute to the conversation about women being underrepresented in CBF pulpits? Who am I to tell anybody what a woman’s role in church and society must be?

I fully believe women can do the same things I can do. My voice is not meant to hush the voices of women. I do not think I am meant to lead people just because of my gender.

I also wonder how we are going to get there. How are we to finally get to a place where women and men have the same opportunities and are treated with the same respect and appreciation?

We are not there yet. It does, in fact, seem like we are far from ever getting there. That is exasperating for those who want to see churches support and affirm women in positions of leadership.

But, as an outsider, I want to remind those who are tired and who have sought to bring change for so long of the enormous meaning of their desire and their work. We are called to speak of reconciliation between God and humanity and between persons, including reconciliation of women and men.

This continues to be a promise that sounds too good to be true. Looking at the world, and at our very own Baptist churches, we see a different reality. We see realities that seem to contrast what they are supposed to be.

As dark as those realities might be, and as hopeless as we might feel, we cannot take the easy way out of our redeemer’s work of reconciliation. Reconciliation takes time, and it also requires a lot of work. Reconciliation may seem to have no end in sight, and it therefore demands patience from those who hope to have it.

The church is not what it should be, at least not fully, and the discrepancy between males and females is just one of the many sinful realities of our church. But let us hope for a better reality together, without telling those who are not ready for that reconciliation to get out.

The church has taken that option too many times throughout its history. It has taken the easy way out, but what if we were to be a generation that actually tries to do differently? What if our generation takes those who came before us and includes them in this act of love and forgiveness? What if we continue to walk, as slowly as it may seem, with the CBF, and with the assurance that we will get there one day?

This is a high expectation, and I know that in my sin I will continue to push others away from that reconciliation. So as I notice the incredible distance between where I am and where I should be, I ask you to stay with me as well. Do not push me away unless I go where you think I should be.

Do not do so to others, either. Because as painful as it is to see our brokenness, I need you, as well as I need them, to be with me and remind me about the beauty of reconciliation. In love and with patience I ask you to help me reconcile with others, just as we have been reconciled with our God.

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OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.