As a first-year student, it’s scary to speak up in class. This problem affects both students and professors. I took intro theology in my first year at CMU.
One day, the professor must have realized he’d been talking for over half an hour straight. He finished his point, took a step back from the lectern and asked, “Does that make sense?” Clearly not—the room was full of vacant stares. But class was over, there was no time to explain, and by then nobody remembered exactly what didn’t make sense. We were frustrated. I’m sure he was too.
For this post, Willard asked me to reflect on trust between Mennonite Church Canada leaders and constituents. I think of it in terms of clear, frequent, two-way communication. Misunderstandings hurt both sides. Between the publication of the Future Directions Task Force Final Report (FDTF) and Addendum last December, and the 2016 Assembly in Saskatoon seven months later, many expressed frustration that we, as congregations and individuals, hadn’t been fully informed or consulted about these big changes. I was one of them. But some hadn’t read the Task Force’s interim documents, or given feedback when previously asked. I was one of those too.
I’m not saying the Task Force’s interim communication was perfect. Like my prof’s lecture, it may have been complex, or difficult to follow for non-experts. I suspect this could have been fixed in both cases if something had been said. I recall one Task Force member saying they were pleased with the level of response the Final Report generated; they only wished it had been there all along.
It’s remarkable how similar the frustrations are on both sides. We want better communication from our leaders. They want the same from us.
It takes courage to speak up. We often think everyone around us gets it and our best bet is to catch up, or give up, in silence. My theology class, and the confusion after the FDTF report, suggest differently. If you’re lost, say something. Soon. It’s better to interrupt the lecture than to barely recognize the final exam.
MC Canada has called a special assembly for October, 2017, to vote on the new structure for our national church. This is sooner than I expected, but there’s still time to get into the conversation. Check out the Interim Council's transition site, or page through the Canadian Mennonite when it arrives. Emerging Voices Initiative (which I’m part of) was privileged to host a series of workshops this fall, where young and old have discussed our church’s future together. Events continue in Manitoba and Alberta this January.
We, as constituents, have a right to expect clarity from our leaders, and a plan for the future that reflects the best possible balance of our hopes. We need not wait until voting time to exercise that right. We’re more likely to be satisfied if we ask questions sooner, and show we’re listening.
Does that make sense?