The Power of Admitting You Might Be Wrong

Brian McLaren has a great piece in Sojourners on how to talk about politics in church. More than that, it's a great piece on how to have constructive dialogue with people when you disagree on an issue. He borrows this model from a Leadership Journal piece by Adam Hamilton, which deals with preaching on controverial issues.

Here's it is:

  • Show respect for all positions on an issue, and for those who hold opposing opinions.
  • Understand the opposing side so well that you can present its arguments as clearly as its proponents do.
  • Begin your sermon by presenting the opposing case’s position.
  • Then present your position, rooting your position in biblical soil, admitting your position’s downsides.
  • Confess your openness to changing your thinking—thus modeling the teachability you hope your people will demonstrate.

What's missing from our public and private rebates--from the war in Iraq to what kinds of songs to play in church--is exactly this kind of humility and willingness to look at someone's point of view. It's even more true in the blogosphere, where flaming is preferred to thoughtful responses, and where opening up a can of digital whup ass and toxic commentary is a sure fire way to become a blogstar.

A fews days back, I got an email asking me to take part in a forum on stem cells for a group of medical students. I wondered, how on earth can I say anything meaningful about this emotionally charged issue, where the battles lines are so clearly drawn? Especially when I'm supposed to give the "anti stem cell" argument. (The request came after someone read my Sojourners piece on the issue)

Thanks to McLaren, I might just be able to add something useful to this dialogue.


A Dying Church?

Are we seeing the death throes of the archdiocese of Boston? That's the thought that's been running around my head the last few days, reading about church closings in Boston. Here in Chicago, Cardinal George approved a plan to close 5 struggling churches .

In Boston, a some of the 87 parishes being closed are healthy.

But it's the rationale for closings, shown in this Globe piece that is scary.

In a taped interview on Boston Catholic Television, O'Malley said closing parishes need to make "greater sacrifices" for the good of the archdiocese.

Here are some of the reasons given for closings:

  • the age of church buildings
  • a geographic shift of the Catholic population
  • an aging clergy
  • "almost half" of parishes are in the red

    What's not mentioned is the decline in mass attendence or the devastating affects of lawsuits related to sexual abuse.

    Then there's this quote:

    O'Malley said he was pleased that many parishes have closed quietly, saying that ''in so many parishes, with the excellent leadership of their priests, people have come to understand the painful reality we're going through and embrace it with hope . . . that out of this will come a stronger church."

    Does it really make sense to kill off healthy parishes, where the parishioners are so dedicated they will run round the clock vigils and sue the archdiocese to keep the churches from closing? I don't know, but I've heard better ideas.

    But the bigger question is this--will closing nearly 1/4 of Boston Catholic churches make the archdioces stronger, or is it just a sign of inevitable collapse?


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