Public, Private, and Secret

A friend of mine, Rev. Steve Heyduck, and me were in a conversation in which he shared that a friend of his said there are three areas of boundaries. There are things that are public, private and secret.

The public is that which everyone knows. The private is that which a small group knows. The secret is that which maybe only you or one other person knows.

There is a growing concern that these boundaries are being broken down. In the age of twitter and instant updates and celebrity worship and reality television, there is a lot of chatter that we expect people to bring their private and secret lives into the public. Transparency is all the rage these days and there is a growing lament that too much private is becoming public.

In the church there is always a concern that the private conversations will become public. There are too many broken relationships that happen when a confidential conversation becomes public. This is a concern and we should be vigilant to protecting the private and secret aspects of our lives.

However, I find that while relationships are broken when the private becomes public, churches are also being broken when the public becomes private.

From finances to theology, there are a number of things that the church used to have in the public but have allowed them to shift to the private. Churches don't talk about somethings in the public. We don't talk about LGBT issues in public worship. We don't talk church finances we don't talk the hurt and pain in our world. We don't talk about accountability or many other things that are public knowledge but we have mode into the private silo.

Part of the gospel is to bring to light the public which has become private. This is why we reject Gnosticism (secret knowledge in order to gain salvation). This is why the meetings of the UMC are open meetings (with the exception of staff parish relations committee, which functions like HR for a local church).

Ensuring the public does not become private is a reason the church lead the way to bring about civil rights (ensuring that public places/rights are for all people and not just a few).

This is also why the UMC has an open communion table. The table of Christ is always a public table.