“Can we talk?” These three simple words are often used to invite another into conversation, and when I’ve been the recipient of this request, the person asking me has often wanted to discuss something fairly important or of concern. “Can we talk?” usually gets our attention when it comes from someone whose opinion we value or respect.
In the current political and social climate in our country, however, these words take on new meaning. “Can we talk?” isn’t just an invitation to conversation, but is a legitimate question. Are we in this country capable of talking anymore?! Are we able to speak to one another with civility and mutual respect? Are we willing to listen to persons other than those who share our limited points of view? Or have we become so polarized that we refuse to hear anything that “the other” (meaning anyone with whom we disagree or who differs from us in terms of political affiliation, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc.) might have to say?
This year’s Interfaith Peace Conference at Lake Junaluska, scheduled for Thursday, March 1 through Sunday, March 4, 2018, seeks to address this intriguing question. “Meeting the Other: Can We Talk?” is the theme of the 9th annual Peace Conference, a particularly relevant topic for discussion given the headlines in the news lately. And for us as United Methodists facing the difficult issues being addressed by the Commission on a Way Forward, learning how we might better communicate with those who see the world differently from how we do is something that should serve our Church well.
Reconciliation and peace are what the coalition of Jews, Christians, Muslims and other religious traditions who make up the Interfaith Peace Conference seek to achieve. Your presence at and participation in this event will further these laudable goals, which reflect the teachings of Jesus. To register or obtain additional information, click on http://lakejunaluska.com/peace or call (800) 222-4930. The Rev. George Thompson is chairing the Peace Conference.
So, mark your calendars now for March 1-4, 2018, and the 9th annual Interfaith Peace Conference at Lake Junaluska! I hope to see you and members of your churches there!
Your fellow servant in Christ,
Smoky Mountain District Superintendent
Western Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Churchy