Several years ago I was a part of a service at one of our churches in the Dakotas for the dedication of their new building addition. Among the usual comments and words of appreciation expressed that day, I heard something a bit unusual. The layman who had chaired the building project spent some time thanking everyone involved, and then he added these words: "I want to thank those of you who were opposed to this project, because the questions you asked and the issues you raised helped us to redefine this project and to improve it. I especially want to thank you for not leaving the church, but for staying and supporting the project even though you voted against it."

What a wonderful affirmation of the way things should work in the Body of Christ, in the Church! All of us are important, even those who are in the "minority" on some issue. All of us are needed, including those who are part of what the British call "the Loyal Opposition." That is their term for the political party which is not in power for the moment, the group which is in the minority in Parliament. That term, Loyal Opposition, implies that there is a certain dignity in being an opponent of the majority opinion, but one who continues to support and remain loyal to the overall purpose of the institution. The Loyal Opposition is free to express their opinions, to raise questions about the majority party, and to offer alternative solutions. However, they are honored because their loyalty is obvious and their intentions are to improve, not to destroy, the results of the Parliamentary process.

After the “Imagine Indiana” vote was announced and both Conferences approved it by a large margin, someone asked me, “What is going to happen to those who opposed this? Are they in trouble?” I replied, “I am not that kind of a bishop, and we are not that kind of a church.”

So let me reassure any of you who voted against the “Imagine Indiana” plan, or who spoke against it. You are a part of what I call the “Loyal Opposition.” You are welcome to raise your concerns, to help shape the future, and to make sure that the Implementation Plan is the best possible plan for our future together. We need you. We need your differences of opinion. And we need your loyalty to the larger vision of ensuring that the United Methodist Church in Indiana responds to God’s leading into the future.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner