World Convention is an odd animal – difficult to categorise. One passport screener asked whether I was here for business or pleasure. Those who know me well know that I rarely give black & white answers – it’s just not in my make up. I said I’m here for a convention. He said “Oh, business.” But I suspected business had certain conditions on my type of visa – so I said “No! We have no business sessions planned!”
“Oh, then pleasure?”
“Not primarily, it’s a church convention and we come together from all over the world to network and learn from each other. That’s what a convention is.”
The screener just shrugged his shoulders and let me through.
But that’s it – coming together from all over the globe and learning from each other and our experiences and work as part of the Stone-Campbell movement.
Inevitably and importantly, the host country wields great influence on the agenda. As part of the home of the movement that gave birth to Churches of Christ in its various manifestations, Nashville was a great choice. Both Campbell and Stone were present here, and a lot of the history and zeitgeist of their passion is here, reflected not only in the presence of Lipscomb University and the elegant quarters of the Historical Society of Disciples of Christ, but the prolific presence of churches in this “buckle of the bible belt.” The frontier urgency seems prevalent too, in the downtown street scenes where, bars, music and gospel seem to jostle quite comfortably and un-selfconsciously alongside each other.
The effects of the 100 year split are felt very keenly with lamentation by some, but also indifference by others. The passionate diligence of those for whom healing the split is of paramount importance, however, will, I feel, eventually win the day.
For visitors to the US, the emphasis on reconciliation was an education.The issues that separate don’t loom as large elsewhere. US members seem surprised that the Australian scene does not differentiate over much between Disciples and Independent distinctives.
Some felt that the emphasis on healing US divisions, the launching of the Great Communion, etc might have been overstated in an international gathering where there are other concerns – difficulties in several African nations and the Indian sub-continent and South America, indeed the presence of guests from poorer countries where there are differently urgent and important matters to discuss. There were forums and plenary occasions where all received their due, however.
Body of Christ theology tells me that whenever one part is in pain and needs healing – we all send our antibodies in to do the therapeutic work. The significance of the American roots of our movement is so important that if it fails to be strong we all suffer. The hospitality, candid honesty and will to heal exhibited by our host country modelled well what the church can be in any corner of the globe.
Anyhow, that’s my reflection as I sit here in LA waiting for the long plane ride home.