Day 5, Day 4, Day 3, Day 2, Day 1

Thursday’s Delegate Agenda:

Tom Yoder Neufeld continued to teach with us, today. He started by expressing thanks for the corrective and affirming feedback he received from yesterday’s session, reminding us that receiving such is a good sign of mutual discernment.

His theme was “Unity of the Spirit - body and temple” based on Ephesians 4:3

making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the chain of peace

Tom used the literal translation of “chain” for what might normally listed as “bond” because it’s an appropriate reminder that chains are for things that come apart. Peace must be maintained.

“Spirit” Tom said, is “one of the slipperiest terms in the English language.” With Spirit (whether “ruach” or “pneuma”), we have multiple genders or no gender. We have meanings of energy, breath, wind, and more. Tom encouraged us to read passages with “spirit” using the other words. He suggests it could be appropriate to call ourselves “people of the Wind.”

Tom reminded us that “the Spirit unsettles us because we’re not controlling it. The breath gives life to things we didn’t know should live.” It brings life, but “it also blows us around, and we look for places to hang on….The unity of the Spirit is a turbulent storm within God’s embrace….That’s what peace looks like until we all see God face to face.”

Tom also reminded us that “peace is constantly being unsettled by it’s generosity to strangers and enemies.”

The temple of God is not a single body, but the body of Christ, the Christian body. We are a poem, handiwork, or artwork of God. And unlike other art, “what makes the body of Christ most beautiful and perfect is its generosity to the least fitting parts of the body that are being grafted in.” God crafts “with those pieces that have been thrown away.” (Quilts, it seems, might be an appropriate metaphor!)

Tom says we can test whether we are being a peace church together by our:

  • hospitality
  • vision of hope
  • openness
  • prayer for each other

Tom reminds us that we must hold together both radical hospitality and radical transformation. Yes, the church is like a hospital, but if people don’t get better in a hospital, it should be shut down.

When it came to Q&A, Tom reminded us that Ephesians, Galatians, Matthew, and James are all in the New Testament, and they “all represent communities that were looking at one another with suspicion.” We need to live with that tension and use our creativity to mending “what’s been broken.”

Extending the metaphors further, one person expressed concern about when the temple being built has parts that are unsafe. Tom encouraged us to look for Jesus in the unsafe places, to address problems, and mentioned Matthew 18 as one of the biblical warnings.

When asked about traditions of exclusion, Tom returned to the translation of Wind, and reminded us that “Wind can create a lot of damage. Some things [traditions] can use some damage in the church.”

For our afternoon delegate session, we focused on the second item in our Renewed Commitments: Witness to God’s Peace.

We were asked to discuss the following:

Identify one part of our shared peace witness we should work together for the next biennium?

As with my report from day 1 and the peacemaking gathering, our delegate body made it clear that peacemaking goes well beyond resisting war. As our tables responded to the question, there were many incredible responses, but I’ll highlight the following ones that were recurring themes:

  • Creation care, climate change, watershed discipleship, climate justice
  • LQBTQ inclusion
  • Conflict skills, difficult conversation skills, hospitality, and listening
  • Grounding our peace witness in Jesus and the biblical texts
  • Immigration and border crises

May the energy, breath, and wind of God carry us into creative acts of witnessing to God’s peace.