Sunday, August 2, 2009


As city nicknames go, Nap-Town (Indianapolis, IN) isn’t my choice for ‘most ideal.’ Apparently, it arose in early 1900’s, when the city would shut down come nightfall. So people said, “There’s nothing to do in Indianapolis other than nap.” It didn’t hurt that ‘n-a-p’ is in the city name. Oh well, at least they didn’t get “The Big Tomato” (Sacramento) or “The Mistake by the Lake” (Cleveland). I’ve also learned there’s a town in MN named “Downer,” just outside Moorhead. Considering the options, then, Nap-Town is alright. Or perhaps” Circle City,” as it’s also known, or just plain ole “Indy”.

Indianapolis has other things, of course, besides nicknames and sleeping people. There’s the Motor Speedway, home of the Brickyard 400 (that was for you, Ken Feld), and the NCAA Sports Hall of Fame. There are more monuments in Indy than any other American city, outside Washington D.C. And of course, in downtown Indy, you can find the Disciples Center, an office building that many of our denomination’s General ministries call ‘home.’

This weekend, Disciples of Christ from all over descended on Indianapolis, not just to see open-wheel racing or the headquarters of Week of Compassion or even the high school where my wife graduated. As you may know already, our denomination is holding our biannual General Assembly in that city. Nap-Town beware! This should be exciting- a convention center-sized family reunion. Friends from summer camp long ago, classmates from seminary or the School for Congregational Learning, folk you served on a regional committee with, these people and more gather every two years to celebrate our Disciples heritage and make a few decisions.

Many American denominations have gatherings like this one. The Episcopal Church just finished their tri-annual General Convention. Our sister denomination, the United Church of Christ, held their biannual General Synod the weekend of my wedding, causing one close friend to miss the nuptials. Bummer. Those events are opportunities for fellowship and work, like ours. But unlike some other denominations, work at our General Assembly has rather strict limits. Church policy views GA delegates as congregational representatives. But the Assembly is NOT considered representative of the entire denomination. So while we discuss and vote on matters of concern to our church and society- questions about war and peace, the environment, etc.- whatever the General Assembly says about such matters does not equal “what Disciples of Christ believe.” It is simply recording “The Sense of the Assembly.” Indeed, no one person or group of people could ever say definitively “Disciples of Christ believe…” because that’s not how we work. We value differences of opinion, the free exchange of various ideas. What you say may upset me; what I say may seem utterly wrong to you. But we gather at the table together, not because we’re the same, but because we know there’s much to learn from one another.

Of course, that reality has lead some to question whether it makes sense for General Assembly to vote on anything, since a) it doesn’t speak for all Disciples, and b) it gives the false impression that it does speak for all Disciples. In fact, I’m one of those people, and hope this Assembly makes progress toward finding something better, more honest to our heritage, and more creative. But until that happens, the typical answer is that Disciples at GA vote and pass resolutions to encourage churches and church members to educate themselves about issues that are relevant for Christians today. So to that end, let me invite you to visit and click on the 2009 General Assembly tab (our theme- “For the Healing of the Nations). Once there, you can read the resolutions we discussed and voted on, as well as the other activities we did. If y’all want, I’ll be glad to lead a forum this fall for our church to discuss the GA resolutions and what we think. In the absence of a better system, that would help make GA’s activities worthwhile. And it would let me share with you some of what I learned.

Assuming, of course, I pull myself away from the NCAA Hall of Fame. In all things,

Grace and Peace,