I’ve watched the United Methodist General Conference with great interest. My parents are United Methodists. I received one of the best theological educations one can get through a United Methodist Seminary (I know just enough Wesley to get in trouble). Some of the best practices in preaching, church leadership, justice, and pastoral care that I know have been learned from United Methodists. My heart aches for them and for my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, especially UMC members and pastors. Here are some thoughts from the last few days.
I’m not naive enough to believe that if my denomination/tradition’s polity was different we would not be having this same meeting/discussion. We have this struggle in informal and ways formal to us on a regular basis. In fact, our polity allows us to operate much as the United Methodist Church’s One Church Plan would have governed. There are some Disciples churches who are not welcoming of LGBTQ+ people (which breaks my heart). I caution us not to act like we have inclusion and full welcome all figured out because we don’t. We have a ways to go in order to catch up to the full embrace that God offers all people. We shouldn’t be so quick to tear down parts of the body of Christ, even when they make decisions that are heartbreaking. Rather, this should encourage us to work together in order to bring God’s shalom to all.
I wish institutions did not have the power to determine a person’s worth in the eyes of God. God determines each person’s worth and God has called each and every one of us beloved and good. This should be good enough for the church, but we have missed and continue to miss the mark on this. I love the church, so much so I’ve given my life’s work to it, but we mess up God for folks far more than we should. Please know that our institutions are flawed, but the love of God for all people is not. My prayer is that one day we are bold enough to draw the circles in our institutions as wide as God draws them in the world. One day, I hope we catch up to God.
I am encouraged by those leaders in the UMC who faithfully witnessed for full inclusion. Many put their livelihood on the line in order to share their convictions. It’s not the easiest thing to do. Looking in the mirror this morning, I saw someone who has not always been as brave as I needed to be staring back at me.
I ache for those in the United Methodist Church who cannot fully live into who God has created them to be. The church needs your gifts and graces. The church universal is less than whole without you able to be who you are. I ache for those same-sex couples who grew up in or really wanted to be married in their church home. I will never understand why others get to determine who we love and with whom we share life. The world needs more life-giving relationships that make people whole, not fewer.
Finally, I know that love always has the final word. I know that life overcomes death. This is the story of our faith. Even on the darkest of days, the promise remains.