Congregational Distinctive - Dissent
Gerald Arbuckle SM speaks on why the Church should love dissent - and the vital importance of mourning. [Gerald is one of the contributors to The Pioneer Gift: Explorations in Mission, edited by Cathy Ross and Jonny Baker, and published by Canterbury Press.]
What are your thoughts on what Gerald Arbuckle has to say? Dissent is seen by many as a Congregational Distinctive, does this clip inform a 21st Century Congregational dissent? Leave a one or two sentence reflection below and we'll build up a comment wall.
I think the word "dissent" is an unfortunate word and reminds me of the word rebellion and lawlessness, and I think belongs and should remain in the annuls of history because perhaps it meant what it was meant to mean in the 1600s. I believe the word "freedom" is a far more constructive word for today. It is for freedom that Christ set us free - in Congregationalism we are FREE to express (kindly) who we are, what we believe, how we feel, what we think about things and what our varied theological stand points might be. FREE to express our views and to enter into discussion without fear of repercussions. As an ex-Catholic I can now FREELY say that I was not free to have my own views whilst in the Catholic church. Neither was I completely free in the C of E. However, as a Christian who has learnt Congregational ways, I can appreciate the FREEDOM from organised religion that Congregationalism has offered to my faith. I do not see myself as dissenting from Catholicism, but rather a moving away from a constricting viewpoint into greater freedom to be more of who God has called me to be. Prophecy, we read in Corinthians is a wonderful gift to the church to encourage, exhort and comfort others and is done through speaking, teaching preaching, writing, etc.
For me "dissent" means taking an active part in Christian life. While many Christians say total and unconditional truth can be found in the Bible (and that people should agree with them), dissenting shows that no one's viewpoint is better than someone else's. In a church that dissents, there is no one who has the "correct" answer - everyone's beliefs are equally valid and valued. This makes for a loving and respectful environment that is often absent in orthodox churches.
Tom, Methodist Church
Dissent is most definitely a characteristic of Congregationalism. I learned early in my ministry not to stifle dissent nor to fear it. However, dissent inevitably disturbs those who prefer the status quo and might cause them pain. Love is needed. But it has been my sad experience from time to time that some who treasure their own history of dissent are the first to stifle any dissenting voice that then challenges their views or actions. This leads to a build up of frustration and usually worse problems. If allowed and considered respectfully dissent can lead to growth in understanding and knowledge. Indeed it can lead to growth in faith. We stifle dissenting voices to our own cost.
The gospels reveal Jesus as one who dissented from prevalent religious and political views during his earthly ministry. The price he paid was the cross. But what a price was paid by those who sought to silence his voice. Allowing a grain of sand to stay within an oyster shell must be painful. But it produces pearls as a consequence.
Barry, East Midlands