Dialogue as a model of reconciliation
Conflict is not a bad thing. Differences of opinion or perception are both important and inevitable. They can even be an opportunity. In the last couple weeks, I have even been reminded that differing opinions can lead to (or allow one to recognize) real growth.
Metro Lutheran is proudly a pan-Lutheran institution. This newspaper is one of the few places in the country where many of us who are proudly Lutheran are able to talk together to be family. This was the main aspect of this job that interested me, as well as the primary point of concern.
It is a risk to put out a newspaper representing so many people with such a diverse set of experiences and beliefs. Readers will often see in these pages information that does not reflect their opinion. Every reader should also find stories that more closely reflect their own faith journey in some way.
Thats true not only for readers. The board and the staff of Metro Lutheran sometimes see articles that express a perspective different than their own. And for volunteer board members, it sometimes can mean being put in the position of defending the need for a newspaper to include a diverse set of opinions, including ones with which that individual does not agree.
The dialogue regarding sexuality, and specifically homosexuality, has put almost every board member in that position in the last year. These editorial pages have included an on-going dialogue about the contributions offered by the social and biological sciences to people of faith. In that time certainly almost everyone has read statements and claims that dont reflect their opinion.
I should say, in the news coverage, Metro Lutheran for years has been consistent and vigilant in providing just the facts of actions taken and events happening. But, the opinion pages have allowed a wide variety of opinions to be expressed. This should and will continue.
We are absolutely committed to the disclaimer about fairness printed in the tiny type at the top of the next page. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent everyone on the board or the staff of the newspaper. Sometimes, in fact, the opinions shared by a commentary writer may reflect no one else. But if it seems that the author is contributing to the discussion in a way that might inform others, it is appropriate to include it in these pages. We will continue to do so on a wide range of topics, including controversial ones.
But there are a number of ways to address these issues. Metro Lutherans staff and board will continue to evaluate what the best means of making contributions on specific topics will be.
Sometimes opposing positions will be presented side by side. The advantage of such a presentation is the clear dialogue feel it offers. Each author receives similar space to address a topic. Clearly, if two editorials are in direct opposition, the newspaper is not taking a stand on one side or the other.
Occasionally, maybe for practical reasons of deadlines or space limitations, a side-by-side, pro-and-con style doesnt work. The dialogue may need to take some back-and-forth that requires several issues. In that case, in order to be more intentional in reminding readers that there is a variety of opinions, the staff will prepare an introduction reminding readers of the position offered in the previous issue.
Sometimes its not just a practical challenge. Often there are more than two sides to a discussion. During a recent dialogue on sexuality, some board members voiced feeling unrepresented by the positions of either of the recent Op-Ed contributors. (And this in no way reflects on our writers; sexuality is a complicated topic with many different angles of perception.)
Because sexuality is a hot topic with the various communities Metro Lutheran represents, the paper will continue to address the issue. The board and staff will continue to look for ways to contribute to the discussion. We will look for creative and fresh means to engage our readers. And, of course, we will continue to encourage our readers to write and respond.
The Metro Lutheran board had a very good conversation on the role of commentary and the media, especially as it pertains to divisive issues. The range of opinions was as wide as that in our society.
But, even during its passionate discussion on sexuality, board members acted as servant leaders. Each individual strove to listen truly to hear and understand as much as to be understood. Each person took responsibility to participate in the discussion, as well as to continue to be vigilant in their on-going board duties. The board didnt make a decision about a specific position. But it did have an intense discussion with integrity.
Before I break into a verse of Kum ba ya, let me say that there are moments of status confessionis, times when we are called not to compromise. Our principles and our personal witness do not allow us to participate fully. But even then there are ways to stay engaged. In many ways Metro Lutheran is a place where these relationships continue, and not always easily.
Almost no one looks forward to having the tough conversations. It is even harder to have these with family. Many a holiday gathering has been ruined by these confrontations.
Thats why I am so heartened by the conversation of Metro Lutherans board. I believe the board modeled for the world the unity of the body of Christ. If our culture could address the hard questions with the integrity of the board, we would have new political and social possibilities.