Sharing in Faith: A single sentence divides us
I was baptized in a Methodist church in 1966. I attended Sunday school and was confirmed in a United Methodist church. I was a member of UMYF. I attended a United Methodist-related seminary. I am married to a United Methodist pastor in her 21st year in ministry.
I made membership vows to The United Methodist Church, and affirmed them each time I've changed my membership. Those vows are as serious and important to me as my wedding vows.
I love The United Methodist Church. As part of an itinerant family, it is the one home I know I will always have. I love our history of ministry and mission to the world. Our special emphases as heirs of John Wesley enliven the gospel in and for the world in a way no other tradition can. I would submit we are a people large in heart, in love, in the practice of ministry, and even in our doctrine and teachings because the world is our parish.
At our heart, however, lies this cancer. It began as a single sentence in a single paragraph in our Book of Discipline. Like all cancers, it has spread to sicken our life together, our teaching and preaching ministries, created factions and parties and groups.
That sentence defines a particular segment of the population as living outside the bounds of God's grace. It defines it as a unique expression of human sin, distinct from all others. As such, it impacts how we think about everything from being human through how we minister to all persons in our midst and the world to how we think about our loving, graceful God who created us, saves us, and will perfect us in love.
Removing that sentence is not the end of the treatment for what ails us. Like all such treatments, such surgery is only the beginning of the healing process. We will need to work on reconciling all the different factions and parties, not the least those gay and lesbian sisters and brothers in our midst who have remained silent out of fear.
Most importantly, in removing that sentence, we will continue our journey together as the Body of Christ called The United Methodist Church, in and through the sanctifying grace of God to perfect all of us and each of us in love to and for all in this life.
There is no other way to get to where we should be as a church but through the controversy, through the disagreements and arguments. Should we truly trust in the God who saves us, however, I believe this will make us a better, stronger, more faithful community.
Posted December 1, 2014.