Conflict in Christian Communication: A Discussion with Guests from Quad Cities Anglican Radio

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I love listening to, reading about, and engaging with brothers and sisters across a wide spectrum of disciplines and platforms--such as blogs, social media, podcasts, and everything in between--because it fascinates me to see how God moves and works in the Church and world today. But one thing I don't always see, is a lot of discussion on Doctrine. Doctrine forms the meat and potatoes that some believers shy away from serving or even digesting. The Quad Cities Anglican Radio podcast is a definite exception. The gentlemen and ladies behind QCAR harness their collective and extensive expertise in Bible, theology, and Church history to address Doctrine, faith, and the disciple's journey in the contemporary world--all from an Anglo-Catholic perspective. I come from a different church background than the QCAR family and, as such, do not always agree with them on some doctrinal issues and ideology. Nevertheless, I respect and enjoy the podcast immensely and admire their efforts to reach out into the cyber world and engage in robust, Godly dialogue. 

Recently, the Reverend Donald Sackett and the Very Reverend Thomas Janikowski, who host QCAR's flagship podcast, graciously agreed to share their perspectives with me on an issue that weighs heavily on my mind and heart: communication among believers with opposing ideals. 

Candid: It seems like we see a lot of conflict and contentious communication in today’s world due, in part, to many factors like a volatile political scene and the widespread dissemination of various ideas that technology permits. This conflict seems to spill over into faith discussions at times—especially on social media and the Internet in general. In face-to-face encounters, expressing differences of opinion is more complicated, but still a potential minefield when so many diverse ideals exist among Christians even in the same family or community. In both “virtual” and face-to-face conversations, I have heard the quality of conversation degrade to the point where Christians are accusing other Christians of being false believers, and other things. It’s heaviness of heart over this communication breakdown that prompted the topic of this discussion and my seeking out your perspective.

My first question is: In your view(s), how important is this issue of differing ideologies and conflict over the same to today’s Church (universal)?

QCAR: Great question! I (Father Don) understand the question on a personal level because of conflict with my own adult child. She is with a cult based in southern Indiana and has taken the stance that I am a heretic. Her cult rejects all other denominations and organized religion and believes that the King James Bible (they don’t use “Version”) alone is the word of God and any deviation is error. They do not have ordained clergy, and they are instructed to purchase a KJB without helps of any kind, such as a commentary, cross-reference, or index. The leader of the cult interprets to them how they should understand scripture.

First, there are emotional reasons why she has gone there. By having this understanding I can pray for her. Second, while it’s tempting to second guess my own standing based upon her accusations, I must consider where she is coming from. The rejection of organized religion demonstrates a lack of humility; it’s prideful idolatry. That is, fashioning a god of your own understanding (prohibited in the second commandment). The fashioning of idols can, and often does, take the form of ideologies rather than images. By creating my own sect, liturgy, or religion, I can control what is to be believed, I can control morality. Apostolic Christianity requires that we follow the teachings of the Apostles handed down carefully through the ages. Therefore, it requires an act of humility by submission to the Church.

So the question then becomes, is the people/person you're dealing with struggling with emotional difficulties? If so, prayer and patience is required.

Are you in right standing? Are you (not dealing with personal perfection here) in submission to Apostolic teaching? That is reasonably submitted to the authority of the Church or denomination you are in and seeking understanding rather than to super-impose a political or moral worldly teaching upon the church?

Is the party you are dealing with in right standing? Are they submitted? Is their denomination or sect Apostolic? or has it succumbed to the spirit of the age? It is fashionable to use relativism to fashion your own idol.    
The Vincentian Canon applies here: The threefold test of Catholicity laid down by St Vincent of Lérins, namely 'what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all'. By this triple test of ecumenicity, antiquity, and consent, the Church is to differentiate between true and false tradition.

If you are in right standing you have nothing to do but state the position of the Church. You cannot control another’s response, but you can control yours. Your responsibility is that outlined by St. Peter in his second epistle which also addresses your question in great length.

Candid: Are there issues that Christians of diverse traditions can and should collaborate on and have dialogue about? (What are they?)

QCAR: How do you define “Diverse Traditions”?

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and is desperately corrupt; who can understand it?

Humility means that we submit to the Church and its teaching. Anything else has agendas behind it. It means that we want our own way and if we do not get it, we go where we can get what we want. God offers us life, and that abundantly in Christ Jesus. If we submit to His ways we will be our best selves. If we try to find another way, well that is manipulation, and we will not be our best selves.

Diverse traditions could mean that one side has compromised the faith. To enter into a dialogue would mean that one side would have to accept this compromise and legitimize it by consent. The rigidity I use in this case is because I find Life in dying to Christ daily.

Candid: When individual believers feel compelled to address error or erroneous behavior in a brother or sister, what counsel would you give them for balancing candor and love while doing this?

QCAR: Addressing error is an act of love. It should be carried out in private (in a private room/home/resturaunt/office) with two or more people, as the bible advises. It should address directly the error and ask the person to repent or have a change of heart. The confronting party should be careful to refine the focus and avoid senseless accusations that do not address the error. Having a well thought out plan or prewritten notes is helpful to avoid getting off topic. The questions should be addressed in a way that shows concern. This allows for candor, but gives the party the benefit of the doubt.

The one in error should be given the privacy and time to respond with out interruption.

The whole process should be prayerfully addressed beforehand and openly at the beginning of the meeting. The witness(es) should be authoritative, that is one who is respected by the one in error.

The more organized the confronting party is in addressing the error beforehand the more it disarms the person being confronted. This too is an act of love and concern.

Candid: On the other side of the coin, if another believer approaches with a difference of opinion, but does so in a less than loving manner (e.g. by questioning or undermining my personal faith), how do you suggest navigating the situation?

QCAR: Again, I suggest that confrontation be done in private as much as possible. Addressing error should never be done in public. If someone does interject with a differing opinion, it gives the one in error an out. Don’t put yourself in that situation.

Candid: What specific things should we focus our prayers on with respect to this issue? What can we ask for ourselves and for other Christians that we want to cooperate with or find it challenging to cooperate with?

QCAR: This goes back to the second commandment and the issue of idolatry. As Christians we should be in agreement on most things. In fact, there are very few things that we should differ on if we are in Christ.

Candid: I’m so glad you agreed to participate in this discussion and I’m excited to share your wisdom with my readers. In close, is there anything I (and hopefully my readers) can pray for you and the QCAR family about?

QCAR: How about asking prayers for our parishes (St. Mark's in Silvis, Illinois, Trinity in Rock Island, Illinois, and All Saints in Weatherford, Texas), as well as for Quad Cities Anglican Radio and the growth of the Anglo-Catholic movement worldwide? That would be great!  Thank you!

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