An Irenic Conversation

by Reed DePace

Last year after GA I made a post expressing concern about the apparent unwillingness to discuss differences. Here is a post from TE James Hakim making the same point in a gentle and peaceful way:

An Irenic Conversation

Husband: as you know, I like to hear your concerns and address them.
Wife: I’m so glad, because I have this list of concerns, based on our current situation
Husband: I’ve reviewed your list, and note that we addressed some of these things 37 years ago and others 15 years ago. Since we said the correct things at those times, it would be out of order for me to reaffirm similar things again. Besides, if we talk about it again, I might get into trouble for saying the wrong thing this time.
Wife: Oh… well… I’d really still like to talk about
Husband: [interrupting] I’m sorry, that discussion is out of order at this time
Wife: Well… there’s this other issue that matters much to me. There is a wrong decision that we have made that threatens our marriage entirely. Here’s my report on that…
Husband: I see. Yes, that might have been the wrong decision, but we made it in the right way.
Wife: Well, can we revisit it?
Husband: No, the right way of making decisions like this is to never revisit them.
Wife: I’d like to change what we call “the right way” of making decisions. Here is my proposal…
Husband: Even though this is something totally new, it incorporates one element of the way we used to make decisions, which I didn’t like back then. Besides, this would be very inconvenient.
Wife: But if doing things rightly in a way that saves our marriage is inconvenient, isn’t it worth a little inconvenience?
Husband: If we talk about this more we’ll be late for lunch. This part of the discussion is over.
Wife: It is? Well, could we thank God and pray together?
Husband: If we do that, you might think that I was approving what we were thanking God and praying for.
Wife: Is that bad?
Husband: Well, if we approve things that God approves of, but the people that hate Him disapprove of them, we might offend those people, and then they wouldn’t like us enough to stop hating God.
Wife: But… isn’t it the point that we thank God and pray to Him because He is the One who makes people stop hating Him, not they themselves?
Husband: No. It makes it hard to get a hearing from them.
Wife: Are you really against thanking God and praying to Him?
Husband: uh… er… ok, let’s do it real quick
[short prayer]
Husband: I’m glad we could have such an irenic conversation. I feel great about how good our marriage is.

Disclaimer: any apparent resemblance to recent ecclesiastical events is intentional, but the author is grateful for any discrepancies between the analogy and the reality. In fact, the author hopes that there are many, many more of these discrepancies than he has so far been able to identify.


  1. Justin said,

    June 24, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    How is this fine satire not an argument against bureaucracy in church government for instead congregationalism?

  2. Nathan said,

    June 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    Because in congregationalism the possibility still exists for the same discussion. The only differences are that the argument is limited to a smaller body, and the pastor (or maybe even church leaders, session, etc) is always right. Which leads to a church split. At least within the Presbyterian forum of government there is the biblically warranted possibility for oversight. It seems within the PCA these matters are not currently getting addressed, but I could argue that one the reasons why that might be is because the majority of the PCA is not committed to the Presbyterian form of church government in practice, but to a form congregationalism which meets one a year in a larger assembly. Wait, just a moment, that sounds like the LCMS!

  3. June 24, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    It should be noted that Robert’s Rules of Order, will helpful for meeting organization, is not part of our Standards as a denomination. Our elders do not vow to uphold RRO.

  4. Robin said,

    June 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Reblogged this on A Sidekick's Blog and commented:
    What DIDN’T happen at this year’s PCA General Assembly matters too.

  5. June 24, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Great stuff, Reed! That’s about how the conversations went, alright. I’m waiting for someone to offer an overture to remove paragraph 31.4 from the WCF, or at least exempt Presbyterians.

  6. John Harutunian said,

    June 24, 2014 at 11:40 pm

    >[God] is the One who makes people stop hating Him,

    At least to a non-Reformed mind, that’s a provocative way of putting it!

    In any case, how would you answer the question: Is God the One who makes people start hating Him in the first place?

    (No irreverence to Scripture here -just a reluctance to defer to John Calvin.)

  7. Scott said,

    June 25, 2014 at 7:16 am

    The definition of “irenic” is being misused to mean avoiding dealing with difficult issues, and dealing with them with clear lines of authority.

  8. Reed here said,

    June 25, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Scott, it’s sarcasm.

  9. June 25, 2014 at 8:56 am

    BTW, I missed catching up with James at GA this year. He was across the room and I saw him speak, but didn’t run into him around the place. Overtures ate up all of Monday (including Monday night) and most of Tuesday, which would have been the bulk of my “free” time.

  10. Reed here said,

    June 25, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Wow Bob! As you know, James is hard to miss, ;-)

  11. Jack Miller said,

    June 25, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    It was when I stopped talking to my wife this way that our marriage started getting better… all the time (Beatles).

  12. Frank Aderholdt said,

    June 27, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Very appropriate to this discussion: The recent Mortification of Spin podcast on “niceness” with Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, Aimee Byrd, and guest Dan Phillips of Pyromaniacs.

  13. musicosity1 said,

    June 27, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    The idea of, “Talking again about things amongst ourselves, even when we have talked about them before” (the topic of your imaginary conversation above) seems different from, “A court of the church re-making deliverances it has already made before.” I know how to have a conversation with one other person, and even with a few people at once. Beyond three or four people, there’s a different dynamic at work. I love to talk with those with whom I have differences on both the left and right. I don’t find the floor of GA a helpful place for conversations, though.

  14. Reed here said,

    June 27, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Musicocity1: thank you girls your comment. As per Lane’s blog rules, I’ve moved your comment to the pending folder.

    Please identify yourself for us. If for some reason you’d prefer pseudonymity please contact Lane or one of the moderators via email. Please give us your name, church background, etc..


  15. Scott said,

    June 28, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Mr. Moderator, my post 7 means to say

    The definition of “irenic” is being misused to mean avoiding dealing with difficult issues, and dealing with them ***without*** clear lines of authority.

  16. musicosity1 said,

    June 28, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Reed, I am Robert Berman.

  17. Reed Here said,

    June 28, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Thank you Robert. You’ve been through this before. :-) Thanks for your humility and allowing me the mercy of not recognizing your handle.

  18. Reed Here said,

    June 28, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Robert, I do appreciate your perspective. No one is arguing over repeating things. Instead the concern of many confessional-minded men is: 1) we are not addressing some problems in our denomination, and 2) the effort to properly address these problems repeatedly is thwarted before any meaningful exchange has been allowed to occur.

    James Hakim’s allegory is a fair reflection of how we perceive the conversation to be going, repeatedly shut off via procedural processes. The rules of engagement are being used to squelch engagement.

    Surely this is not consistent with Christlikeness?

  19. Reed Here said,

    June 28, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Scott, I respectfully disagree. The allegory is based on the use of clear lines of authority, our church courts and the agreed upon procedures.

  20. musicosity1 said,

    June 28, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    I am all for addressing the problems, and especially for communication between factions. I tried to make a point at GA of spending time with people of as many different viewpoints as possible. I would have liked the “past, present, and future of the PCA” panel to have included more diversity of viewpoints. The seminars can be an opportunity. However, I don’t think the floor of GA is the place for the conversation that needs to happen. That venue is too restrictive, when there are so many potential speakers, each of whom might have something to say to everything that everyone else says. The math is just overwhelming. Better to divvy it up into many smaller exchanges, and not just during the 48 hours of GA, but throughout the year. Sites like this can be a part of the ongoing solution.

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