The Way Forward

Part of the Clear Creek trail for jogging/walking/biking/dog exercising runs behind my house. It’s pretty much the main reason I chose the place. About 200 yards of the trail runs behind the houses in my neighborhood and a majority of the rest of it, for a mile to a mile and a half, runs along the creek in an area without any houses. I’ve seen deer and coyotes and raccoons and I think a rat or mole or two and some (I’m choosing to believe) innocent non-venomous snakes, and rabbits, and of course some ticks I’ve found on my clothes and on Buddy, and in the fall, many, many oak mites. I’ve seen hawks – none have been red and blue walking upright with bright yellow beaks, hmmmm. *snort* And robins and sparrows and blue jays and cardinals and an old owl was hanging around this past fall, and a bunch of birds I don’t have a clue about but they do a lot of talking. I tend to take Bud out either really early in the morning or rather late in the evening and the trail is pretty quiet and “we” do a lot of thinking. Bud sniffs and marks stuff as his own more than he actually thinks, but he’s a pretty cerebral canine from my projection perspective.

Life doesn’t go quite as well when I don’t get out on the path on a regular basis, whether it’s jogging or walking. I’m not certain of the physiologic explanation, but the things that make me angry get less sharp, the things that make me sad I sometimes give a good cry and feel better, the things that seem overwhelming often lessen in their intensity, and often my faith feels more solid because maybe I’m “giving God the floor” a bit more purposefully. Whether it’s because I grew up on a farm and spent a ton of my childhood outside so that’s my comfort zone, or simply because the gift of the natural world is one that is a universal experience, I sometimes wonder if we’d be a more peace-filled and generous-hearted humanity if we all were outside more. Ah, if it were only that simple – and then again, maybe it is and we simply don’t take the time to notice.

Our United Methodist Church continues to prepare for the specially called General Conference in February of 2019 in relation to looking at a “Way Forward” in terms of human sexuality. We’ve heard from the Council of Bishops about the plan they’re recommending called the “One Church Model” while two other plans will come for consideration by the 1,000 elected clergy and lay delegates at the Conference as well. You can find more information on each of these plans by googling Council of Bishops Way Forward or and then The Way Forward. None of the plans are perfect, we are all human beans, (as opposed to green or lima), and I have a feeling the arguments on the floor of the General Conference in February will be no less intense or polarized than they were in 2016 when we reached this impasse. Our Judicial Council has recently ruled at the request of the Council of Bishops that anyone, lay or clergy, may submit petitions that are “in harmony with the purpose stated in the call” for the special session. Now we United Methodist human beans (as opposed to pork-and or navy) are debating about who decides what “in harmony with the purpose” actually means.

You know what being out on the path has revealed to me? As long as we’re fighting over language and phrases and words and interpretations, we don’t have to realize with one another that we are talking about actual people who, whether we want to know it or not, are alive in the world working and eating and getting groceries and raising families and yes, even coming to worship in places where we are saying to them “officially” that they’re not welcome and that, as of now, they are “incompatible with Christian teaching” although we then go on to say, “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends.” So even though we label “them” as incompatible, we don’t want “them” to experience rejection or condemnation. (Book of Discipline, Para. 161F). Sort of a double message it seems. Maybe… we love you but you’re icky and make us uncomfortable? Maybe… just in case we’re wrong and Jesus thinks you’re okay, we want to hedge our bets a little so we can still get into heaven in the final judgment so we want to say both things at the same time, you know, that you’re icky and all but in case Jesus accepts you we mostly do too except we don’t really because you still make us uncomfortable, and yet Jesus never condemns you or even mentions you and he does specifically condemn divorce and you can come here if you’re divorced and we don’t consider you incompatible, but maybe Jesus just forgot to say that if you are gay or lesbian you are incompatible but if he did remember he would’ve said it we’re sure, but when he remembered to say it he also wouldn’t want you to feel condemned or rejected.

Is your head exploding yet? And our denomination is willing to self-destruct over whether or not to accept human beans (as opposed to pinto or garbanzo) in all of our differences. I guess just some differences matter more than others. Jesus talks negatively about divorce (Matt. 5:31-32 and 19:9) and we’ve found a way to interpret those words in a way that allows us to accept persons who are divorced, and Jesus does not talk about homosexuality and we’ve decided he would not have been accepting and supportive if he had decided to speak about it.

Maybe we all need to go outside and walk on a path along a creek. We could watch for hawks, yes, even the J kind, and we could talk about ticks and snakes and coyotes, and shake our heads about how moles just tunnel through everywhere and how oak mites fall on everyone without prejudice and how pretty the sky is at sunset. And then maybe we could look at each other and realize we are all more the same than we are different under the same sky and sun and stars and maybe in the vastness of a natural world we might agree that all God’s children are all God’s children. Ah, if it were only that simple… and then again, maybe it is.