“…Christian tradition to see living with and through difference as itself a Christian responsibility, and an opportunity to witness to the reign of God. ”
Debates and division over a range of theological and social issues plague American mainline denominations. For many observers and adherents alike, this divisiveness threatens the future of mainline Protestantism in the U.S. In response, this project appropriates and embellishes the biblical concept of forbearance to articulate a theological ethic for faithful disagreement. Built on the Pauline virtues of faith, hope, and love, the practice of forbearance invites Christians to understand living with difference as a celebration of Christian unity and as an occasion for the cultivation of distinctively Christian character, without abandoning our commitment to truth or struggles for justice. In conversation with a range of voices from historical and modern theology, incorporating traditional priorities on the importance of friendship and covenant, I suggest that a commitment to forbearance reflects fundamental faith claims about the trustworthiness of God and the inherent value in other persons. Ultimately, the practice of forbearance offers the church an opportunity to live with and through difference in healthier ways, and in doing so to witness to a more responsible way of being community in an increasingly divisive and uncivil society.