What I learned at General Synod 29 – July 2013

by John Hickox, Dufur, Oregon
I thought “bullying” was about high-school cheerleaders making fun of the girl with a bad complexion or 8th grade boys pushing around 4th grade math whizzes.

That is, of course, one dimension of bullying, but there is much more!

I didn’t REALLY understand the issue until a woman who, shall we say, doesn’t quite fit our image of a person in a leadership position in the church, stood up and said, “I was bullied in kindergarten, I was bullied in grade school, I was bullied in high school, I was bullied in college, I was bullied in seminary, I WAS BULLIED 5 MINUTES AGO WHEN I APPROACHED THIS MICROPHONE TO SPEAK!”

That reminded me of the time a homeless person told me, “What I need most from you is not your money or your food or your shelter.  What I need MOST from you is for you to SEE me when we pass on the sidewalk… I want you to make eye contact with me. Just acknowledge my presence.  That will be enough for me.”

But it wasn’t until Quinn Caldwell’s theological reflection later that day that I finally saw the whole picture.  Quinn said: “The point is that most of the ancient prophets were actually insiders of one sort or another: wealthy or elite or noble or priestly….insiders with power, which is the only way anybody heard or noticed them enough to care… So those of us with power, privilege, or access of our own (white, or male or American, or wealthy, or documented, or with bodies that work perfectly all the time, or whatever) ought not to just sit around feeling guilty for the power we’ve been unfairly given, but to use it for the world.”

Is it possible this is our most important Justice and Witness issue?

Editor’s note: Bullying, in all of its insidious forms, was officially decried by General Synod 2013 in a resolution of witness, which was overwhelmingly adopted Tuesday afternoon at the Long Beach Convention Center.

The resolution also encourages each conference to use its Committees on Ministry to include education on bullying as part of its boundary training. Committee 3, which handled this resolution, suggested the resources available on UCC.org, and StopBullying.gov are appropriate for that education process.

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