BFL pamphlet focuses on shared understandings
“Until someone has a good understanding of what we are for, it’s not helpful to fixate on what we are seen to be against,” says Brian Cooper. This principle guided the then-chair of the Board of Faith and Life as the committee worked on the theological resource pamphlet “Creation: God’s revelation in nature.”
What turned out to be a six-year process began in the wake of a conversation with one congregation that was troubled by an opinion piece that appeared in the MB Herald (“A plea for understanding,” March 2010). As the board wrestled with the issue, “it morphed into a new species,” says Cooper.
“The consensus about the best way to approach [the pamphlet] was to write a theology of creation rather than a pamphlet on an issue,” says Cooper. Informed by a plethora of members, some serving short terms, he wrote the pamphlet. “We choose to major on things that are significant, rather than get caught up in divisive details.”
The resulting pamphlet is particularly for people under 40, says Cooper, who have grown up with a sense that what they learn in science class contradicts what they believe is true from church. “There need not be a conflict.”
In fact, there is a range of diversity in acknowledged traditions – “We are continually changing our minds,” says Cooper. This historical perspective suggests it’s not necessary to find one “correct” interpretation and stick with it.
Furthermore, a theology of creation is not only about origins, but about “what we actually do, how we live,” says Cooper. “We have a mandate to live responsible, ethically, in caring for creation, for example.”
“If we focus on the overwhelming consensus that God created all that is – deliberately and with a specific purpose – and if we focus on the implications of that, we have more than enough to guide our sense of community and mission very constructively. We don’t have to argue about things we disagree about,” says Cooper.
The process concluded harmoniously with the church that initiated the pamphlet. “It didn’t need to be a situation where we agreed on all the details,” says Cooper. “We can still call one another ‘brother’ [and sister].”
The board of faith and life is currently working on a pamphlet on the sanctity of life – another subject where they chose to write a theology of what Mennonite Brethren believe in response to a current societal issue where the church may be framed as being “against.”