– by Dr. Randall Miller, RMN Interim Executive Director –Greetings! As we begin another year together in the Reconciling Ministries Network, I hope that you find yourself filled with a sense of energy, excitement, and gratitude for all of the work that lies ahead us. I have no doubts that for some, the preceding statement will be quite a stretch. After all, 2012 was a very demanding year as RMN and the Common Witness Coalition sought to provide a progressive and inclusive witness at the United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida – with little or no effect on the official policies and stances of the United Methodist Church, some (critics) might add.
But just for a moment, I want to invite you to join with me in a spiritual exercise. Take a mental step back from the shenanigans and games of brinksmanship that have come to preoccupy successive General Conferences. Instead, with eyes of hope and determination, I encourage you to notice and give voice to the instances in which God’s liberating Spirit is already at work: in the embrace of those who love you unconditionally, in faith communities where the table is truly open to all, in the activities of those who take uncalculated risks on our behalf, and in places like Maryland, Maine, Washington, and Minnesota, where good people simply do the right thing.
This is the stuff of which revolutions of the heart are made. Writing in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement and out of the depth of his own very real battles for love and acceptance, James Baldwin once wrote that he had discovered two seemingly opposing ideas that guided him in moments of struggle:
“The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and [human beings] as they are… the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one’s strength. This fight begins, however, in the heart and now it had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair.”
Of course, it’s no accident that Baldwin, who began his writing and speaking career as a child-preacher, invokes two principles that are so pivotal to the gospel message: acceptance and justice.
At its very best, the Reconciling Ministries Network has always lived in the tension between these two extraordinary ideas. It’s what has distinguished us so often from the mean-spiritedness of some of our fiercest opponents and deeply shaped the words we’ve chosen to speak, the strategies we’ve been willing to employ, and the future that is even now being created for ourselves and many others, whose names we do not know.
As this new year begins, I wish for you a renewed sense of joy, possibility, and excitement as we continue to make this revolution of the heart a present reality.