I am tempted to use this space at this time to talk about some of the interesting things going on this week. On Tuesday the Supreme Court decided to hear cases involving the religious rights of corporations. As a budding church-state scholar this is right in my wheelhouse and a fascinating and complex religio-political issue. I am also tempted to give my two cents on some of the great discussions that have been happening on Spectrum in the past week or so – whether the Pope’s most recent controversial statements, some of the great posts on decision-making at various levels, or why the Adventist Church is losing members and how we can retain them. But today is Thanksgiving, quite possibly my favorite holiday on the calendar. I am grateful for this one day a year when we can purposefully put aside the negativity and derisiveness and focus on all the many things we are thankful for. My thoughts obviously turn to the many wonderful blessings that God has given me. I am eternally grateful for my friends and family, and I am certainly thankful for the successes and even the challenges that God has brought my way in the past year. My heart goes out to the people whose lives have forever scarred by some tragic circumstance this past year, and my prayers are for them to find peace and joy in the midst of their pain.
When my thoughts turned to our church and more specifically this Spectrum community, a verse popped into my head. Paul admonishes the church at Thessalonica (and all of us) to “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess 5:16-18) This verse really challenged me to ask, “Would I give thanks for everything and everyone in the communities I inhabit?” I look at my church and I see evidence of so many positive things. I see continued progress in the way we treat women and members of the LGBT community. I see progress in the way we approach religion and spirituality. I see progress even at the ground level of my own individual church and the good that I have been able to do for them and how they have extended themselves to me. But what about the people and things in the church that are disagreeable to me?
I can ask a very similar question about this Spectrum community. I have long since given up the practice of responding to comments on my posts here, or following the criticism in real time. I generally find criticisms to be either purposefully hurtful or shockingly misinformed.I do go back and read comments on my pieces after a couple of weeks when the smoke has cleared, and I can usually predict who is going to disagree (and, to be fair, who is going to agree) and the style in which they will do so. I spend a lot of time in my home venting about the seemingly ignorant and often rude things that people have said about me and my ideas in this forum. I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts here and thankful for the forum and community that Spectrum provides. But can I give thanks even for the people who have disagreed with me over the past year and who have done so in demeaning ways?
As I pondered those questions, I think I shocked myself with my ability to answer yes to both of these questions. While I certainly disagree with the official church positions on some things and while I vehemently disagree with some commenters in this community on who God is and what He wants, I am still grateful for you. I am grateful that you’re willing to be a part of this community, despite the fact that we disagree on so much. The ideological segregation of our society in general has led to spaces like this being fewer and farther between (and mostly found online). I am grateful that you seek to serve God in a way that is truthful and that you admonish others to do the same. In that way we have very much in common. I am grateful for your presence in this church. I believe that no organization such as this should be at one extreme or another and so I welcome your presence to balance out the negatives that are inherently present in my own belief system taken to its extremes. Yes, this means that I can find a way to be thankful for Elder Wilson too, despite the fact that I disagree with him on so many things.
There are those of you in this community who no longer count yourselves as Adventists (or never did). I am grateful for your perspective as well. Leaving any faith is a hard decision in my estimation and one that I do not think any of you have taken lightly. I am grateful for your courage. Moreover, I am glad that you have not simply faded away, but have joined this community to challenge Adventists of all stripes in ways that we cannot challenge each other. You bring a different and worthwhile perspective (no matter the ideological bent), viewing the church from the outside in and challenging us to rethink our positions, much in the same way we stand outside so many different communities and challenge their views. I hope in the coming year we truly listen to you in the same measure as we desire to be heard.
I hope this Thanksgiving holiday finds all of you well and enjoying God’s blessings. I pray that this next year brings you more joy than pain and that you draw closer to God as a result. I am thankful for this community and I hope that it grows, that we continue to challenge one another, and that the entire process makes us more of who God wants us to be.
 I guess I owe an apology to those of you over the years that have asked meaningful and thought provoking questions and have not received answers from me. A genuine I’m sorry to you faithful few.