Beloved, without exception

It’s spring.  I did see a thing on FB that said it’s actually January the 137th or something, but it’s actually spring.  Easter was grand.  Jesus did it again, the whole resurrection to new life, the greatest good news of all the good news ever.  Each year is different and has its own special meaning, this year it was the feel of being back together with the choirs and instruments and families and new clothes and all the things.  LOVE WINS!!!  LIFE WINS!  God is who God says God is!

Then after Easter and facing the future unafraid . . . our challenges are still present to be faced.  Our Bishop sent out a letter today announcing a special called Annual Conference for the Great Plains in September specifically for the subject of division and discussion for all of us, those leaving and those staying, around process for those churches that want to disaffiliate. sigh. General Conference has been delayed again and the movement of those who desire to separate over issues of inclusion have decided not to wait.  The Wesley Covenant Association become the Global Methodist Church has announced their beginning for May 2022 – yes, a couple of weeks from now.  Churches wanting to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church will have a process in place that will require steps and documents and votes and all the things that go with institutional division.

Understand this, when it comes to following Jesus, I will never fight for an institution as an end in and of itself.  There’s part of me that wishes there wasn’t one, you know, an institution with a governance system.  AND, the other part of me, the more realistic one, knows that no grass roots movement lasts with impact if there isn’t an infrastructure put into place at some point.  I also know that there is need for accountability, not always as objective as we might like, but accountability and broad limits for us to live as healthy and connected as is possible with we imperfect human beings at every level and participation.

I chose United Methodism as the place to live out my call.  I don’t think it was the only choice or avenue, but I felt called to United Methodism because of the broad table and the large tent.  That we could disagree on all things political and social and economic, (“and” not “but”), AND come to the table together to experience God’s mercy and grace through Jesus Christ.  What a marvelous experiment of health and humanity I thought.  To take all of us as peculiar, unique, and diverse as we each are, and bring us together in the vision of God’s beloved to work and live out our faith in the same connectional denomination of churches.  Some more conservative, some more progressive, some completely moderate and all connecting with one another in love of God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and love of Jesus as ourselves. Love wins!

With God love wins, with human beings sometimes, not so much. In 1956 we finally decided women could be fully ordained clergy and appointed to churches.  In 1968 we finally decided that people of color could serve any church in any conference rather than limiting their service only to churches of color.  In 1972, I guess still needing someone to not fit acceptability and inclusion, we decided the persons in the LGBTQ+ community, while being, along with all humans, as our Book of Discipline conflictingly says: “people of sacred worth” yet “are not compatible with Christian teaching.”  A little like, “we love you but . . .”  “God loves you but . . .”  “You’re welcome except . . .”  “You can participate except . . .”

I can’t find any “buts” and/or “excepts” in God’s language of grace through Jesus Christ.  None for the conservative.  None for the progressive.  None for the moderate.  And Jesus doesn’t mention anything about LGBTQ+ community. No mention. Not anywhere. No “buts” and/or “excepts” anywhere.  There is that one place in Matthew where Jesus says, “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’  The Jesus will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46, NRSV)  That’s as clear a statement that Jesus makes about eternal punishment anywhere in the gospels, and nothing about the LGBTQ+ community, either there or anywhere else.  I don’t know anyone who follows those instructions of serving the least of these as Jesus names them, perfectly.  So either there’s no hope for any of us, or all of us, together, must rely on God’s abundant grace and mercy.  And all means all.

So we as an institutional denomination are dividing, separating.  It’s for the best reasonably and logically speaking.  still sigh.  See, I want everybody.  My sister sometimes calls me Anna – so maybe I’m actually Polly-Anna snort. I want everybody.  I’m clear where I stand, and those who have known me for very long know where I stand as well.  AND I still want everybody because we’re all messy and broken and wrong-headed and biased and weak . . . AND we’re all amazing, and blessed, and glorious, and filled with gifts and wisdom and love and courage.  If we covenant and commit together to control our behavior so that in our disagreements we can treat each other, verbally and physically and spiritually, with dignity and respect, can’t we live and love and learn together?  

Um, no, evidently not.

I will now and always be United Methodist.  Because I love the institution?  No, I don’t love any institution.  I will now and always be United Methodist because I love God, and I will always want a broad table and a big tent where I follow and serve Jesus.  I will always want everybody in a faith community of which I am an active part committed to listening and learning and struggling and disagreeing without being disagreeable and focusing on that which connects us at the most basic level . . . we are imperfect human beings that God has chosen to call beloved, without exception.  

Maybe as the youtube video suggests, we have way more to do and to live and to serve than worrying about who loves who and using time and money to divide an institution over such things.  Just a thought.

(Video link)