by Rev. Matt Ashley, South District Missional Strategist and Superintendent.
March Madness! I’ve got my brackets printed off, ready to decide which men’s and women’s college basketball teams I think will win in this year’s NCAA Tournaments. My interest is renewed this year with the resurgence of my hometown Arizona Wildcats.
Last year University of Arizona’s women’s team went all the way to the championship game. This year the men’s team is rated #2 in the country and was just awarded the #1 seed in the South Regional. Bear Down, Arizona!
68 teams in the men’s NCAA Tournament. 67 games spread over three weeks. 67 teams will lose their final game and be eliminated. One team will win all their games and be the champions – a storybook ending to someone’s dream season.
It’s so nice and tidy, the NCAA Tournament. 68 teams know their task – win all their games. No doubt, no wondering what the goal is, no lack of clarity – just win.
Don’t you wish life was that tidy? But it’s not. Life is complicated, and sometimes the objective is not clear. We can’t choose the strategies because we don’t know the goal. We can’t choose a path because we’re not sure of the destination. We don’t know the answers – in fact, all too often it’s not even clear what the questions are.
The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It’d be great if doing that was as clear-cut as a team winning all of its games in the Tournament, but what if we don’t agree what it means to be disciples and what if we don’t have a common vision of transformation? Fulfilling our mission gets pretty complicated.
Don’t you wish life was tidy? But it’s not. Recently the United Methodist Church announced that General Conference has been postponed yet again due to the challenges of gathering a worldwide body in the age of Covid. And so the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace will not be decided, the Christmas Covenant will not be decided, our divisions over human sexuality go on without resolution. We cry with the Psalmist, “How long?”
With General Conference’s postponement, the Wesley Covenant Association announced the launch of the Global Methodist Church on May 1st, 2022. It will be a new expression of Methodism centered on more conservative views of human sexuality and other issues. Some churches across the country are already making the decision to leave the United Methodist Church and join the GMC. We will offer our love and our prayers for all who depart on that new journey.
I will be among those who will stay and continue to work towards a fully inclusive United Methodist Church that honors Wesleyan theology in its life and practice. A church committed to Wesley’s understanding that Scripture is the inspired Word of God that contains all things necessary for salvation. A church that seeks to win hearts and minds by sharing the love and grace of Jesus Christ. A church where we can love alike even if we do not think alike.
A church where we love every person because God loves every person. A church where we seek to love God and to love people with our whole hearts. A church fully committed to love and justice. A courageous church – loving like Jesus, acting for justice, united in hope.
Maybe life isn’t so uncertain after all. Within the next few days, I will fill out my NCAA Tournament brackets and I could get it completely wrong. The teams I think will win may lose.
But we are people of faith and recipients of the promise that nothing in this world can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38). Nothing is more sure and certain than that!
Thanks for listening –
P.S. Bear Down!