This past August, Alan Robinson (pictured above) began his work as national director of BIC U.S. Like many in our community today, Alan didn’t grow up in the Brethren in Christ Church. After moving from Great Britain to the U.S., he joined the BIC in 1999, when he became senior pastor of the Carlisle (Pa.) Brethren in Christ Church.
That same year, a consultation of 51 BIC brothers and sisters from across North America gathered to identify and articulate the convictions at the heart of what it means to be Brethren in Christ. As the “We believe” series comes to a close, Alan shares some of his thoughts on the 10 Core Values that unite us in Christ and lead us into the future.
What do you think the Core Values communicate about us as a Church family?
I love the story behind how these statements came to be. I find it significant that the 51 members of the consultation weren’t chosen because of their level of influence, the number of degrees they held, or their affluence. Rather, these were brothers and sisters from different walks of life—pastors and archivists, parents and theologians, musicians and educators—who were identified for their examples of faith and wisdom and were invited to serve. And then they responded with a willingness to use their gifts.
When I consider our Core Values, I see the Spirit revealed through the statements themselves, as well as the communal process we used to form them. That’s who we’ve always been, and that’s still who we strive to be today.
From your perspective, what is the purpose of our Core Values?
One thing that strikes me is that these values should be viewed as aspirational. Worshipping God, Pursuing peace, Relying on God—these are things that we aren’t ever going to be able to fully realize in this life. Instead, they represent the high calling that’s upon us as Christ-followers. Not that we don’t take them seriously or strive to practice them, but I find freedom in knowing that I’m not going to get all of them exactly right, all the time—and that’s ok, because it’s part of following Jesus and experiencing continual transformation through the Holy Spirit.
Have any of the Core Values been especially transformative in your own life?
I find all the values to be instructive and challenging. But one that has spoken to me at different times throughout my life is Pursuing peace: “We value all human life and promote forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation, and non-violent resolution of conflict.” I believe that this message is deeply countercultural and one that Jesus desires us to speak into the world.
I’m reminded of my childhood years in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Every Saturday, my father and I would get our swimming togs—or “trunks” as you Americans would say—and go to a swimming club. As you may know, Belfast at that time was in turmoil—really, it was the scene of a war—between Catholics and Protestants. We lived on a street of Protestants, but the street next to us was one on which Catholics lived. Every Saturday, on our way to the club, we would walk to the end of our street and meet up with one of my dad’s co-workers and his daughter, who lived in the Catholic section.
But because these neighborhoods were so close to each other, the government erected a huge corrugated metal fence along the edge of our yard, down to the end of our street. This segregated our entire community. Not only could we not walk with our neighbors to the swimming pool anymore, but, after that, I never again saw that man and his daughter—never again.
That really made an impression on me when I was young. And I value that our Brethren in Christ community rejects divisions like that. We say that we’re committed to tearing down walls—literal and figurative—that separate people. We’re committed to seeking reconciliation and understanding and forgiveness. And this reconciliation is not just between countries, but between all humans—spouses, parents, siblings, neighbors, co-workers, and so on. If we are to be known as children of God, we must hear and take seriously the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called the children of God.” The Church of Jesus is called to truly love each other and to tear down every barrier. And when we participate in that, I think that we help paint a picture of what Jesus’ coming kingdom will be like.
For more of Alan’s ponderings, check out his blog, Threads, at bic-threads.com.