It’s been said that the one command God gives us in the Bible more than any other is ‘be not afraid.’ And yet, we live in a society where fear is constantly used to manipulate us. Fear is used to motivate us to vote a certain way or to buy a certain product. Fear is everywhere.
And even in the church, fear is rampant. One of the big questions being debated at this year’s General Convention is whether to meet as one house instead of two. Currently Convention meets as two houses (the House of Deputies, which is made up of clergy and laity and the House of Bishops). Curiously, as one reads the various arguments against moving to a unicameral system, appeals to fear are common. Specifically, many seem to be afraid of the undue influence of bishops.
On the one hand, we can acknowledge the real pain of fear that comes from lived experiences of inappropriate behavior by bishops. However, it also seems unfair to assume that negative past experiences will always continue into the future. We know that the United Methodist Church and the Church of England have found constructive ways to meet together as one body.
Alongside all the anxieties of what a unicameral legislature might bring, there is also hope. Many have hope that this new system will not only be more efficient, but might also lead to greater reconciliation between groups and leaders who have sometimes been at odds. There is hope that we might learn to work together as we deliberate the future of the Episcopal Church.
And yet, saying our only options are fear or hope seems a bit naive. Sometimes fears are rightly founded. We know what we are afraid of. Yet, at the same time, we have the ability to make choices so that we are not ruled by our fears. In his book Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, Scott Bader-Saye says that in order to do so, we need courage. “Courage is the capacity to do what is right and good in the face of fear. We become courageous when we learn to live for something that is more important than our own safety.”
Let us hope and trust that the good news of God in Christ, as this Church has received it, may continue to be shared in the future. This is the one thing that surely matters more than our safety. May God give us courage in making decisions about a unicameral legislature, and in all the questions that come before General Convention.