223rd Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren
San Diego, California — June 26, 2009
“We tend to resist change, especially in the area of the sacred. But, Jesus was change,” shared Margaret Gray Towne, presenter at the Voices for an Open Spirit dinner.
Towne, author of Honest to Genesis: A Biblical and Scientific Challenge to Creationism has close connections to the Church of the Brethren since 1963, when she taught biology at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa. She returned as a visiting professor in science and religion in 1999.
Towne celebrates the new ideas given to us by science–ideas which celebrate the powers of God. New ideas are difficult, but they are how we develop and grow, she said. She pointed out that churches were critical of the discoveries of Galileo and Copernicus, only to apologize to the scientists later.
As we learn and celebrate new ideas, Towne stressed the importance of humility in relating to each other. We often don’t hold the whole story, and thus must practice “reserving judgment.” Reserving judgment is a practice Towne encourages in a course she teaches on critical thinking. “As Christians,” Towne said, “we should err on the side of loving.”
None of us have all the truth, she emphasized, saying that as we learn, we need to be humble. We have different opinions and perspectives, but we need to love one another, she said, quoting Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things which you have not known.”
Towne spoke of two kinds of love: the “because of” love, and the “in spite of” love. We love others often “because of” our similarities and connections with them. Jesus loved us “in spite of” our limitations. “We need to love each other in spite of our differences and our different life journeys. In churches, unification comes to us via the ‘in spite of’ love.” Through our diversity we come to better understand each other and God, she added.
“We don’t need to be uniform, but we do need to be unified,” she emphasized.
Towne closed with words from a well-known song, “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord….and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.”
–Melissa Troyer is from Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren and is a member of the Church of the Brethren’s Committee on Interchurch Relations.
The News Team for the 2009 Annual Conference includes writers Karen Garrett, Frank Ramirez, Frances Townsend, Melissa Troyer, Rich Troyer; photographers Kay Guyer, Justin Hollenberg, Keith Hollenberg, Glenn Riegel, Ken Wenger; staff Becky Ullom and Amy Heckert. Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.