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An Open Letter to All

The painful personal, but public, conversation that began with Cliff’s comments about Spectrum, and continued with Jim’s response this past weekend elicited quite a heated conversation on this website.
Both of you, I am sure, felt convicted that you were right about the comments that you made. You both are excellent writers, so it is understandable that you put your thoughts into words and shared them.
Cliff, I appreciate you calling Spectrum to task for its reporting on the church. We need to do to more to affirm professors, pastors, administrators, writers, and congregations that daily do their best to live out the Gospel.
Jim, I appreciate your courage to call bullying by its right name and to say that it is always inappropriate and particularly egregious in a church leader.
But now that the dust has settled, what happens? Has anything been resolved? Some have suggested that we invite the two of you to write what you have learned from this exchange. We would welcome such reports, if you felt so inclined. And we look forward to your participation on this site in the future.
What have the rest of us taken away from the exchange? What have we learned as a community?
Adventist Forum Board member Ellen Brodersen said, “As I read through the blog I felt it was a good conversation – difficult and at times clumsy – yet I believe it had merit. It reminds me of what I learned from the book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond: if we move through the chaos as a group – where we have been willing to be honest – instead of retreating to where we feel comfortable – we will grow as a group and find community. I think this exchange has the possibility of doing just that.”
Personally, what I learned came from an additional source—a movie.
Saturday night to lighten my mood after reading the thread following Jim’s letter, I watched Toy Story 3, and was impressed by its story about the importance of community. The setup for this adventure of Woody, the plastic cowboy, Buzz Lightyear, the battery-powered superhero, and all of Andy’s other childhood toys comes from the fact that Andy is going off to college. What will become of the toys? Will they simply be thrown in the trash, donated to charity, or boxed up and sent to the attic? In their ensuing adventures, staying together becomes top priority for the toys. “We’ll be okay if we stick together, Woody says.” A little later it is Buzz who says, “What is important is that we are together.” And together the toys work to free themselves from the perils at Sunnyside Daycare and the horrors of the dump. At one point, Buzz is captured and reprogrammed by the bad toys, but Woody and the gang do not give up on him. They recapture him and do some reprogramming of their own.
As the credits rolled, I thought about our website community and the larger Adventist church family, and it struck me that we are like those toys. We need each other.
What is most important is that we are together, that we value the contribution each has to make. That we must listen to each other. That is what we need to remind ourselves when arguments and misunderstandings take place.
Jim, your beautiful piece on communion also came to mind. I wish we could hold a virtual communion online where we would go to each other and connect personally as we wash each other’s feet, break bread, and drink communion wine. We could pray for God’s grace to change our hearts, enact forgiveness, and love one another. As Woody would say, “We’ll be okay if we stick together.”
Bonnie Dwyer is the editor of Spectrum.
Art: John McDowell, PhD, Burning Bush, n.d.

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