‘Agreement is Overrated’
Update: We understand that since the event on which this reflection was based that The Revd Tory Baucum has now ended his work with Bishop Shannon Johnston. You can read Tory Baucum’s letter to his vestry here. We pray that they find a ‘good resolution’ to the glory of God. The reflection is intended to be on what was said at the conference and reflects the thoughts of the writer. The author stands by the post.
Canon Phil Groves reflects on the recent Faith in Conflict conference
A single phrase can sum up a conference, capturing the spirit and imagination of the people present.
At the recent Faith in Conflict conference three words were frequently repeated by speaker and participant: ‘Agreement is overrated.’ The phrase first reverberated around the Twitter feed when it was said by Bishop Shannon Johnston of Virginia while he was being interviewed with the Rector of Truro Church Revd Tory Baucum by Bill Marsh. The story of the conflict between diocese and church is well known to many and ended in legal separation.
The story of reconciliation was surprising to all of us. The issues that divided them remained, but the journey of honest conversation leading to reconciliation (but not agreement) had energised both of them and also energised their communities.
Tory made it clear he believed +Shannon was in error and should repent, but that was not why he entered into the conversation. He was not aiming to convert the bishop; that he left to God. It was so his own ministry and that of Truro Church could move beyond fear and reconnect with the world outside. He saw his wonderful congregation being reluctant to reach out to their community.. They needed a leader who didn’t just tell them to go out but to lead the way.
His dialogue with Bishop Shannon has not changed the mind of either of them, but the congregation of Truro has regained its confidence in the gospel, built bridges with the community and is seeing more people than ever before participating in Alpha.
This is what we have heard again and again from our pilot conversations. The desire to win over another has been replaced by a desire to serve Christ. The journey of honest conversation enables connection across difference and energises mission.
As the Conference drew to a close the phrase ‘agreement is overrated’ was attributed not to Shannon Johnston but to Tory Baucum. It stands as a basis for the journey where truth is not relative, but our knowledge of it is always blurred (1 Cor 13:12).
Tory Baucum did say:
‘I’m from Kansas City. Grew up around jazz, and in jazz we say there’s no such thing as a bad note. Only bad resolutions. So I’m hanging in there for a really good resolution.’