This email was a response to an April 21, 2012 email sent from two individuals on the Elder/Deacon team in which they had denied a previous request for a meeting. The response to this email ignored the clear request for a meeting with which KD ended this email.
Date: May 11, 2012
Dear deacons and elders,
Let me begin by saying that I speak only for myself.
I must be honest, I’m saddened by your response. You’ve read some long emails from RB and have had conversations here and there. Based on those, it seems to you that our minds are made up, so there’s not much point in meeting. You have more important things to do. I get that.
But I can’t help but wonder, why do we even need to justify prioritizing us on your agenda? I understand that we probably don’t fit into your strategic plan for the future of the church. Because of that, you might not perceive any return on your investment of time with us. It’s probably even a bit scary to let us talk at a meeting, knowing that some of us have some disagreements with the leadership or vision or actions of the church. Some of you have probably even classified some of us as toxic and dangerous.
But are we not sisters and brothers? Have we not served alongside each other for a decade or more? Haven’t some of us been very close to some of you or your wives at various times throughout our history together? So I can’t help but wonder, has it really come to this? We’re stuck in this pattern of one-way communication between representatives. I commend RB for trying hard to communicate the nuances of where we as a group find ourselves and what we’re thinking in a medium as limited as email… but we can’t keep going like this. There’s too much potential for misunderstanding. And if we actually decide to make an “official” break from grace church, would it not be incredibly sad if we never had the chance to “officially” say goodbye? Like I said, we’ve been together for a decade. We may have some disagreements, but what is that compared to a decade of trying hard to follow Jesus together?
Honestly, I’m not sure that it matters so much what we actually discuss in a meeting. What matters, I think, is that we meet. We extend to each other the courtesy of a listening ear. Face to face conversation, give and take, feedback, listening, understanding. Sisters and brothers. Family. What we’ve said is that we want to be transparent about what we’re thinking and doing and why. Personally, I’m hoping for much more than that. What I’m really hoping for, I think, is the start of a fruitful conversation that’s good for all of us.
Of course, fruitful does not mean easy. It’s difficult for us to engage in this process. It’s difficult to be open to influence, especially from those with whom you have disagreements or trouble communicating. It seems easier to avoid the conflict and run. But I think we need you, your wives and some other women that have served with the women in our group as discernment partners. There are probably folks who would disagree with me on that, but you have known us for years. You knew us before we started the VAP and some of you have watched from afar as it and we have evolved. You all can provide a perspective that few others can and I dare say we need that perspective, especially as we consider choices that will significantly alter our lives.
What about you? I said I’m hoping for a conversation that’s good for all of us. Have you considered that we might have a perspective that’s valuable to you? That we might have something to say that you want or even need to hear? I know I’m moving way too far into presumption territory here. However, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that we’ve actually thought quite a bit about the choices we’ve made over the last few years. We’ve thought a lot about why we think we’re headed in a different direction than grace church right now. And probably more than all that, we’ve had experiences and gotten to know people that have made it impossible to read the Bible or think about what matters in the same ways we once did. I’m not trying to say that grace church should think the same way or do the same things as the village art project community. On the contrary, one of the outcomes I hope for in our meeting together is a celebration of our diverse unity in Jesus, an appreciation of the unique ways God has made us and calls us to live and work and be. But wouldn’t it be healthy to at least hear a little about all of that? To hear it from our own mouths?
One reason I think we need a meeting is that there’s great diversity even within our own group. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that each member of the VAP family is in it for different reasons. Sure, there are some overarching values and ways of seeing that guide all of us, together. But those took time to form. We all bring a unique perspective to each other, and we value that. It’s not a surprise, then, that we each have a different perspective on our relationship with grace church. RB has done a wonderful job trying to summarize our collective perspective in emails… but it’s exactly that. I’m not sure that you’re going to see that diversity without a meeting. Why is it important for you to see it? For one, you might be the folks who end up explaining to others in our church why we’re not around anymore. Perhaps selfishly, I don’t want to be misunderstood. Without hearing each of us in our words, it’s going to be easy to paint us all the same color, wonder how we got there, conclude that we’re a bit “off,” and move on. But isn’t it good for you, too? To understand how your friends came to this point? Some in our group have traveled this last part of the journey with tears and grieving. We’ve all had heavy hearts. I hope that some will have the chance to express why it’s been hard for them to think about leaving you.
Finally, allow me to look at our current situation through the lens of a question: what does it look like for someone to leave a church well? What if they want to leave, not because they got a nice job out of state or got accepted into school or are entering the mission field, but… for other reasons? Perhaps they sense God pushing or pulling them in a different direction. Perhaps it’s to some_thing_ different. Perhaps it’s to some_one_ different. Perhaps there are vague discomforts with the theology or focus or practice of the church. Perhaps there are very specific disagreements. Perhaps it’s all of the above. What does it look like for such a person (or people) to _leave well_? And how does a healthy church engage such people? How does a healthy church handle criticism? How does a healthy church have discussions about things that matter and make decisions together?
I hope we can all agree that there’s some room for our church to grow in this area. In this moment, we all, you and us, find ourselves in a position to do something about it. We might be able to help each other grow. We are willing, but this has been a long and difficult journey for us already. I’m not sure how long this moment will last. Would you reconsider allowing us to meet together, face to face?
Love, your brother in Christ,