I’ve spent this week, working from my camper at Kiptopeke State Park. The Chesapeake Bay somehow connects me to life, to the earth and my soul to God. This was a good week to be in a place of peace.
I have spent the last six months heartily avoiding the realities of General Conference. I attended the day of Holy Conferencing and I voted for delegates, I know several of them personally and share a covenant group with Martha Stokes, the leader of this year’s delegation. So I knew what it would be about, but I didn’t really let it sink in. Then, in my usual style, when it started I just kind of grazed by the information and goings on. I knew the headlines, felt some stress, retreated to my own to-do-list.
But this week, it all seemed to come crashing down. I’d like to blame it on Twitter…if people couldn’t tweet it would be more civil…but that’s a lie. It’s really just a matter of how much I’m aware of. I heard the stories from four years ago and fours years before that; I know how people act and I’m certain from the way our world is behaving otherwise that General Conference wasn’t likely to be a place of great respect and consideration.
So this week our General Conference drove the United Methodist Church to the brink of schism. The progressives and conservatives pulled so hard on their respective edges, they came close to ripping it all asunder.
Ripping a church apart is sin. Not listening and treating one another with respect is sin. Name calling is sin. So there was a lot of sin.
Hypocrisy is deliberately looking like something you are not. Posing. In church we do a lot of posing when we talk about human sexuality. We pretend we are listening and understanding and really grappling with the other’s viewpoint but really we are just waiting to re-state what we think. So both sides just talk and say the same things over and over and sometimes bother with pretending they are trying to work together.
The United Methodist Church is too beautiful for all of this. For the last four days, I’ve been able to see clearly what it would mean if this great beast of a church disappeared…shattered into two or three or sixteen pieces. What about UMCOR? What about the schools and universities and hospitals we’ve built? What about our brothers and sisters on the pew beside us, down the road in another church, across the country, around the world? What about all the things we hold in common…an open communion table, Wesleyan theology, grace!, Hark the Herald Angels Sing!? What about all of that?
As a country and a church, it is time we placed a great deal of value back in compromise. Working together through disagreements, loving those on the other side of the aisle, seeing God’s amazing creative work in every single human being…let’s get back to these values! The world around us is changing in a thousand ways and most of them can feel so scary. But we are allowing our fear of the changes that are relentless to drive us to destroy the very institutions and structures that offer real hope and real security.
When Christianity was a baby it went through a short time when it was all things good. For awhile, everyone worked together, everyone shared, everyone had good days. But that didn’t last. And God never said, “Well, ya’ll just go your own way.” God never said, “Let’s make a bunch of different bodies of Christ so everyone can have their own kind.” God left them all as one. We believe in One Faith, One Baptism, One God, One Hope, One Spirit, One Church…ONE!
So now, let’s get on through Acts, learn some more about the early church and let’s PRAY!!! Our Council on Bishops has asked us to figure out how we can go forward with our disagreements. PRAY! How can we have people who believe homosexuality is sinful and should be repented of at the same table with those who would ordain all on the LGBTQ spectrum. PRAY! How can we be United Methodists and allow for these different beliefs? PRAY! It’s not about who is right and who is wrong, it is about how can we continue to do church together. PRAY! Neither side is going away. PRAY! No one is changing their mind. PRAY! This can be a win-win together or a lose-lose apart. PRAY!
Read Acts. PRAY. Send me a message.PRAY! Let’s talk. And let’s PRAY!