Remaining a United Methodist Church
Mind-numbing. My definition has to do with when there are too many pieces of information, too much hateful rhetoric, and simply over-the-top clamoring to be heard. One of the things social media has brought, or perhaps more accurately, wrought, are places putting out information that are so one-sided and polarizing that it seems there are no other perspectives that are credible. I suppose that has always been true in relation to where we choose to get our information, but when you can do it at the click of a button, and then once clicked, that’s simply the kind of news you get over and over again because someone’s algorithm says that’s all you would ever want to hear, it can easily lure us into an informational silo. We know what we think, we find things to read that amplify what we already think, having found that information, even more along the same line comes to us unasked, and voila – we simply know we’re right all the time and any who don’t agree with us are wrong.
According to my once United Methodist brothers and sisters now disaffiliating, we who are staying United Methodist don’t believe in the resurrection, don’t preach the saving grace of God, and, in our arrogance, believe that “anything goes” where doctrine and polity are concerned. I’m GROSSLY generalizing, but I guess that’s the order of the day. Can I be honest? It makes my head, my stomach, and my soul hurt when I read someone telling whomever will listen what I believe and don’t believe, without ever having had a conversation with me, listened to a sermon (not the one where I sing *snort), or been in a class that I have taught and I hope invited discussion from varying perspectives.
Grace United Methodist Church is remaining a United Methodist Church. What that means is that we are going to continue to do our faithful best to “Love God, Live Like Jesus, and Serve the World.”
Loving God is our life of worship and praise – traditional, contemporary, small gatherings, large gatherings, regular times of communion with an open and invitational table, baptisms at any age, receiving new members by transfer and profession of faith – ALL who seek to be on a journey with a community of other unique people desiring to live more like the Jesus who we name, without question, as our Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us, the resurrected Christ.
Living Like Jesus is our life of discipleship and evangelism – yes evangelism. I, too, as inclusive and invitational as I am to every beloved child of God, claim the name evangelical. Why? Isn’t that ONLY for those of a more conservative bent? Actually, it’s a word that means a desire to spread the good news of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ. It comes from the Greek word, “evangelion” literally the “gospel” and/or “the good news”. It’s also connected to being biblically based. Listen to any number of my sermons, then tell me that you don’t think I’m very evangelical – biblically based and seeking to spread the good news of the grace of God in the saving power of Jesus Christ. So yes, our church seeks to be evangelistic in our fervor and commitment to LIVE our faith as Jesus taught – all are broken/sinful, (all means all) and in need of the grace that God so generously seeks to offer us in our repentance for healing and joy. And our discipleship is the commitment to grow deeper in our understanding of faith and foundation – Disciple bible study, Grace groups for listening/accountability/sharing the faith with a small covenant group, and theological studies to BROADEN our perspectives on how others experience the presence of God in the reality of our complex world.
Before you decide for me what I believe and don’t believe as a continuing United Methodist, come to worship, come to Disciple Bible study, come to one of the theology classes I’ve been teaching for the last 20 years at Grace, and in the 17 years beyond that in my beloved United Methodist communities of Baldwin 1st United Methodist, Asbury United Methodist in a little village called Prairie, or North Cross United Methodist – NOT in North Kansas City, but in Kansas City North, please understand that clearly. *wink. All these churches filled with wonderfully forgiving and generous people who would put up with this young but developing, then middle-aged but not quite through being a kid, then older and grayer but still given to laughing at her own jokes more loudly than anyone else, pastor no more and no less on the journey of faith than anyone else.
And Serving the World is our life of putting the life of Jesus and how he served at the forefront of our hands-on work with, for, and in respect and dignity of the least, the last, the lost, and sometimes the too easily forgotten.
Do we/I as remaining and affirming and passionately celebrating being United Methodist always get it right? Absolutely not. Do my brothers and sisters in other denominations, including those choosing to disaffiliate from United Methodism in this season of our church history, always get it right? Absolutely not. Are any of us better or worse at getting it right or wrong or simply trying to stay on the path than anyone else? Absolutely not.
Here’s my ask on this day. If I promise to do my best to do the work to try and understand with sensitivity and broad information the authentic faithfulness of those who are choosing to leave United Methodism, might we who are staying receive the same respect and desire to understand, back from those of you leaving?
I get that you are leaving because you do not want to accept the LGBTQ community as created by God no less and no more whole and beloved than any other human beings. I believe in your understanding, you truly believe they are sinners in need of healing and repentance into heterosexuality. O.k. Go along and live out that particular exclusivity in faith and trust. Name it and claim it and stand firm on your belief, I think that should be enough for you to be at peace. And if that’s the case, it would seem the need to try and convince others that in staying United Methodist, I am not a believer in the resurrection of Jesus on the 3rd day, or his feeding 5,000 men – not counting the women and children, or his invitation for those without sin to cast the first stone, or that he is, in fact, Emmanuel – God with us, that somehow I don’t believe that, would be totally unnecessary and a complete waste of your time.
If what you’re hoping to do on this day is exhaust me – well, on that you win. Today. But be very, very clear, you won’t win in that respect tomorrow. I’m certain a person like me exhausts you as well, I think that makes both of us very fallible and very human beings. Maybe on that we CAN agree?
And finally please know this, whoever and wherever you are – you are welcome at Grace United Methodist church – in worship, in covenant or bible study or theology groups, and in hands-on mission where serving others brings a kind of unity of spirit that is more a miracle of grace than anything else.
My great desire and strong belief is that God’s eternal vision and what we will someday experience together, is a table filled with the right of the right, the left of the left, and the vast majority of us that are somewhere in between. And because I believe God will set us beside one another at this great feast, and maybe even leave us there until we become friends and community, (kind of like Mrs. Griffin did in kindergarten until I ate three bites of stewed beets), we might as well start practicing that now, don’t you think?