I sat with a great deal of hope. The Bishops, delegates, and observers at the called session of General Conference gathered on Saturday, February 23, for a day of prayer. It was a powerful time, led by Bishop Bob. We were asked to “lay down our weapons of war” and to seek the will of God, with a true sense of humility. I wanted it to be the way the people of Christ lived.
With the arrival of the next few days it was obvious that seeking God’s will was not what the people were after. It was my way or the highway. My heart broke at the sight at the end of General Conference. The pain experienced was palpable. The institutional church had turned its back on LGBTQIA persons. This was not the church that nurtured me in faith, that taught me the power of love and grace. As a part of that institution, I deeply apologize for the harm we have caused, that I have caused. For the first time I wondered what it would be like, after serving in this church for so long, to consider what my next step would need to be. I cannot be part of a church that looks at people and deems them unworthy of God’s love, God’s call, God’s anointing. Is John 3:16-17 not true?
We asked the Bishops to lead us forward and I cannot figure out why we did not listen.
Words of apology are hollow, if they are not followed by action. Isn’t that what true repentance is all about – a change of direction 180o? It must be seen, experienced. It must be verified.
I believe that we are called to continue upholding the values we see in the One Church Plan. The values, as I see them, are:
- A clear focus on the ministry and mission we are called to do. Nothing will keep us, our churches from doing what God has called us to do.
- A vision of full inclusion of all people. The body of Christ is diverse and beautiful.
- A commitment to living love and working for unity. We will live the highest ideals of our Christian faith and we will not allow our differences to divide us.
So now, back in the arms of my home Conference, I still wonder what the next steps will be. I find that the Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction are leading us in a way forward. It would be easy to call for schism, to divorce ourselves from what has been known as The United Methodist Church, yet that is not what we are called to do. The Bishops remind us that our baptismal covenant calls us to stand against injustice and oppression in whatever forms it is experienced. So, we will continue to work for transformation. We will love our enemies, as scripture teaches us.
Scripture encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2). I encourage pastors and teachers to take seriously the task of teaching the Bible more deeply. I encourage all people to engage in holy conferencing and study. Do not be satisfied with walking into church just before worship begins and walking out when it is over. Go deeper in your faith and deeper in understanding.
As we walk together into the next days, let us live the words Bishop Bob gave to us as a foundation for our Annual Conference last June.
Colossians 3:12-15 (NRSV)
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Let me ask you these questions:
Who do you need to forgive and why?
What do you need to do to clothe yourself with Love?
How will it be evident that the peace of Christ rules in your heart?
We are the people of God. Let us be incarnations of the values we hold dear. We need one another. And we need God to help us, now and always.
God is with you, and God is with us.
Blessings and prayers,