Feb 03, 2009
From The Very Rev. Douglas Travis' Letter from the Dean webpage
At Seminary of the Southwest above all we honor the call to friendship - friendship with God the Father through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. (John 15:12-17) Through our friendship with God, we pursue friendship with each other as well.
One way we express our Christian friendship is through our "conversation covenant". We seek to listen as well as speak, to show kindness and humility, and to acknowledge that we might be wrong. We yearn to be a people who without exception see in the face of the "other" a friend, someone for whom Jesus has died and whom Jesus has invited to join him at his table, the heavenly banquet.
A seminary community is a school of inquiry and interpretation: inquiry into the mystery of God in Jesus Christ and interpretation, in both action and reflection, of God's creative and redemptive love. Frank, confident, and trustful conversation is an essential part of our common learning. Often, though, we are lead into difficult, even disturbing, conversations as we bring the length and breadth of our assumptions, hopes, opinions, and certainties, into the formative power of Christian faith. Avoiding the issues around which passion and disagreement reside might well be an easier path, but commitment to remaining in conversation with one another despite our differences is part of our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.
In order to mark both our commitment to conversation and our recognition of the challenges, we affirm...
that we are all made in the image of God and must, therefore, treat one another with respect and dignity;
that we are free to explore different ideas and beliefs as well as to grow and change theologically;
that we share a common sinfulness and, therefore, will understand only partially and be mistaken frequently;
that we do not have to agree in order to love one another;
that our conversations. even our most passionate disagreements, take place in the Spirit whom we seek not to grieve.
and we strive...
to approach conversation with a willingness to listen and learn, acknowledging the value of opposing views;
to treat one another as honest inquirers, attempting to discern God's truth in a complex world;
to engage ideas without attacking or dismissing those that hold them;
to acknowledge the limited perspective of our own experience and opinions, and be open to the possibility of our views changing;
to consider the possibility that we might be mistaken, secure in the knowledge of the love and forgiveness we have all received in Christ;
to challenge one another while seeking not to give offense;
to consider challenges from others while striving not to take offense too readily;
to serve reconciliation by sharing when we have been offended ;
to acknowledge stereotypes, ask for clarification in order to avoid misunderstandings, and make room for complexity.