The gender issue rages on every time I bring it up. That’s okay. I appreciate the challenge, and many (not all) contribute something worthwhile. Some comments don’t, but I expect that as well. (I thought about deleting one, but it speaks for itself – I’ll leave it there.) It seems to me that there are going to be lots of issues that come up, and we had better find a way to talk about them intelligently rather than yell the other side down. Coming issues include mode of baptism (do we accept those who were baptized as believers by other modes?), baptism and membership, the inclusive language debate, ordination, and issues surrounding the emerging church (new forms of church life). One of the biggest issues is how much diversity we will allow on these and other issues. Will we be defined by our center (Jesus) or around any number of boundary issues? My main problem with the Fellowship’s direction hasn’t been its proposed position. I disagree with it, but I’m okay with not getting my way. My main problem is that we don’t seem to know how to engage the issue openly without assuming that our position is right. Shouting down the other side is not a smart plan of action. We can’t afford to let the shrill voices dictate the terms of the debate. I read about the grace shown at the Evangelical Theological Society on a much tougher issue and thought, “I’d like some of that.” I grew up somehow believing that if you were right, nothing else mattered. The love chapter – 1 Corinthians 13 – should clear up that belief. I’ve been thinking about how we could do better. My ideas mostly center around dialogue – hearing the other side, critiquing one another, and – this is important – finding common ground. It seems to me, for instance, that there is much common ground to be found in this whole gender issue with a bit of work. That way we could be very clear on the points of disagreement rather than just slamming the other side. This is a no-brainer for me, since I respect both sides and think that the sane voices – which seem to be outnumbered, I’m afraid – are convincing on both sides. Could we not work together to try to learn from one another? Why are we afraid to do this? Most of all, I despair for how political we make this. We talk about votes, and when we don’t get our way, trying again next year. A vote creates winners and losers, and that’s never a good thing. There’s got to be a better way. I’m saddened, not because I’m being called narrow-minded or unfair. I’ll sleep well tonight despite that. I’m saddened because we haven’t yet shown that we’re even willing to listen to one another. If and when we ever do listen to one another, offering and accepting critique and finding common ground, it will be a lot easier to accept the outcome. I’ll have at least felt that we were known as his followers by the love that we’ve shown.