The United Methodist is struggling to deal with a request to mature. In some cases, we become aware of our maturity when we hold fast to our core values and stay grounded in the face of tsunamis. In other situations, we mature by tearing the muscle tissues and expanding our spiritual muscles.
As Clergy, we are finding themselves being placed in the middle of swelling storms without a clear grasp upon which anchors to hold us in through the struggle. Caught between proclaiming the Word of God experiencing the heart of God, we are asked to journey with those who see the safety of shore on opposing sandy banks. We know we will not avoid the storm; we know we must trust Christ to be our strength and guide.
The task before the local church between today and the report of the called General Council in February of 2019 is to pray, study, practice loving one another and preparing to heal rather than celebrate. The greatest fear is for the General Conference to attempt to kick-the-can further. There are times that Jesus allows for the grace of divorce to be the better path. When we acknowledge that we have taken a position on human sexuality as a denomination for over forty-years without teaching why we hold these position we have taken. The division in the church reflects a request to change our position without clear teaching why change is required. Our commission is to make disciples and not to seek unity. In contrast, we are all called to be unified in the heart of God in Jesus Christ. In these tensions and others, we find our effectiveness impeded and our future unclear. There is certainly that the nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and we know that seeking the lowest common denominator is seldom God’s highest glory and praise.
Our foundational doctrines, which have not been changed since the beginning of our denominations, include what we call Articles of Religion (http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/the-articles-of-religion-of-the-methodist-church); in these statements of our core are calling into scrutiny 5, 6, 21 & 22, [V, VI, XXI & XXII]. Clarifying how we trust, use and understand scripture, including the Old Testaments, in our rituals and ceremonies as well as defining marriage including clergy.
For the time being, I ask for your prayers of the delegates who will be voting and voicing on behalf of the denomination. I ask you to pray for members of churches everywhere, that they not respond with fear and hate, rather, may love and trust be made new. As for fellow clergy, I pray we will be allowed to lead the charge to pray, decern and guide our congregations rather than divide them.
If we are approaching a divorce date, may we consider the children of the faith yet un-reborn, who will respond to our actions today for generations to come until Christ returns in Glory. If we are to be graced with a decision, may we learn and share why we believe as we are called to trust. If our ministry is to stand upon the fence holding one another in graceful waiting, give us strength in your will and revealing.