Accept or Question?
CrossOver reflection for Week 46 • Beginning October 20, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 7
By Dave Burfeind
I grew up going to church. It was a part of our family life to attend church every Sunday. I have even provided photographic evidence (zoom in, I dare you!). It shows the Bible I gave myself from birthday money I received when I turned nine along with a “Certificate of Attendance” for 13 quarters of perfect Sunday School attendance — over three years without missing a Sunday School class! I assume summers were exempt since we did go on a vacation each summer.
These years of formation were a valuable time to learn Bible stories, scripture, and church rituals. Obviously, I was very young, so developmentally, I was gaining knowledge and establishing my faith, not questioning the information I was receiving. I am sure one of the Bible stories I learned included the improbable birth of a child to Abraham and Sarah.
The structure of the church in which I grew up was also something that was accepted initially, but later questioned when I was an adult. The denomination (not United Methodist) was quite restrictive with the sacraments. Thirty years ago, when looking for a church for our wedding, an option was a church within my own denomination that was located in Heather’s home town. The response when talking with the pastor was that the church was only available for weddings of members of the denomination (Heather was not).
Later, on a trip back to see my parents, we worshipped in my home church, but during communion, Heather was not allowed to participate. The official stance of the church was that communion was available only for those baptized within the church. In both instances, my pastor later heard and asserted that he would have been more accepting in each situation.
At the time, I did not question the stance of the church as it related to both situations. I was accepting of the decision of the church and moved on from what I learned. I have subsequently discovered that it is important to ask questions of our faith, our church, and our denomination. It is also important to have conversations with our God, asking questions about our faith and our relationship with our creator.
Obviously, our faith life is in continual change. As our life progresses, many aspects of our personality and outlook develop. That is also true of our faith life. We need to continue to ask questions as the issues present themselves. Equally important, we need to be in prayer and conversation while we make decisions about our beliefs. We listen for God’s response in these conversations.
What are things in your faith life or practice that have changed as you have matured? How did you experience God as these changes occurred? Are there positions or structures within the church that you question? How do you constructively challenge them while keeping your faith strong?
Dave Burfeind has served for over 20 years as the director of Lazy F Camp and Retreat Center outside of Ellensburg, Washington, in The Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.