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There is a moment in the process of selecting nominees for office where the desire for healthy congregational life meets its unhealthy dynamics. It is an interesting moment.

The first step is simple enough. Ask for nominees. In my experience, most have always come from council members. We gather the list of nominees and begin the process of consideration. We know what is best: we seek people to serve who have gifts necessary to lead a congregation and have the spiritual and emotional maturity necessary for healthy congregational life. Some names on the list no one questions. Some others are easily set aside because of mundane matters like serving in Christian School board, work demands that conflict with the demands of office, and other matters.

And then there is the grey area.

A name is mentioned. There is a collective hesitation. No one really wishes to speak. To open a conversation is to open the story of a mixed past. “Can’t hold the past over him forever,” said one. “Maybe this will force him to step up to the plate,” said another. “But he hasn’t shown by his involvements the capacity to lead,” says another. Some things no one wants to talk about. Often there is silence. To speak is to name publically our private misgivings. To speak is to expose what we have not spoken about to the person himself or herself. It could be character flaws. It could be the insufficient evidence of the capacity to lead. It could be a perceived lack of spiritual maturity. It could be broken relationships with some members. But whatever it is, the officebearers in the room hesitate to speak.

In my mind, two things are at play. There is grace - an unmerited gift that opens the door to a person who has not clearly demonstrated the gifts, character, service and relationships that we believe would be best. The internal desire to say no is met with a stronger desire to open the door, to say join us in this work to which God has called us. We recognize the downside but are willing to take the risk believing that God will lead us through. Being motivated by graciousness is a wonderful dynamic of community life in Christ.

But there is also unhealthy dynamics. Just as silence in families can be dysfunctional, so silence in this process can display reveal the dynamics of community life including its unhealthy parts. The hopes and fears in relationships crack open in the silence. Often time what is known is not spoken. I remember the following issues not raised: the visual undressing of women, the reputation as a business person in community, lack of generosity in church giving, the bullying behaviour in family, the behaviour on the ice rink, and demeaning racial comments. So I wonder “why the silence?” Is it an attempt at being gracious or the fear of opening unpleasant conversations?

Over the years I have thought about this moment. This moment is not about method. Every method depends on our willingness to risk speaking and naming the sources of our hesitation. What we say affects relationships.

The real question is – how is our silence building Christ’s church? Is our silence an act of grace that welcomes or an act rooted in the fear of others that is greater than our love for God’s church? Often times gray moments reveal what lives in our hearts. 

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