Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What if...?: Hard Questions for United Methodists


Author Anne Lamott has astutely noted that “the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty”:

“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me--that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” (Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith)

As we United Methodists approach General Conference, I have been pondering this quote. I have asked myself, “Where has my certainty caused me to stray from faith? Have I been willing to engage in the hard questions regarding my own understandings as I expect others whose views are different from mine? Am I willing to wade into the troubled waters of our beloved church and be open to and surprised by the Spirit’s work?”

I have been especially asking myself these questions in light of recent statements by bishops within our church. The bishops of Africa addressed our denomination. They highlighted two major concerns, global terrorism and homosexuality. These bishops have a front row seat to the brokenness, injustices and death that terrorism has imparted, reminding all of us of “the massive human rights abuses against innocent”



However, the very next paragraph chides the church for “drifting” away from this high calling for “God’s reign of peace, justice and freedom to all” due to the church’s pastoral ministry with LGBT persons:

“Over the past four decades, from 1972 until the present, we have watched with shock and dismay the rapid drift of our denomination from this Holy call to a warm embrace of practices that have become sources of conflict that now threatens to rip the Church apart and distract her from the mission of leading persons to faith and making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. One of such practices is the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender).”

In the United States, one bishop, Scott Jones, offered an unprecedented exit strategy to Rev. Cynthia Meyer, a lesbian clergywoman. Should the 2016 General Conference retain current language prohibiting gay and lesbian clergy from serving openly, Rev. Meyer will be asked to surrender her credentials and “[I] will explain the process foundin ¶2548.2 to a church conference of Edgerton United Methodist Church . .. to assess their interest in withdrawing from the UMC and retaining Rev. Meyeras their pastor in a new denomination.” Bishop Jones is taking the GC 2016 theme of “Therefore Go” quite literally.

So I have been wondering, what if our certainty is preventing us from not only living fully into our faith, but also from recognizing how others are living into theirs as well?

I have been asking myself, as I prepare for General Conference, “What if I’ve been reading the Bible wrong? What if God really abhors homosexuality? What if it is a sin that automatically excludes one from participating in the life and ministry of the church? What if the loving relationships of gay men and lesbians are not reflections of God’s love?”

Now, to those who hold a view of homosexuality that is more restrictive than mine, you, too, must ask yourself the questions:

“What if I’ve been reading the Bible wrong? What if homosexuality is one more example of God’s creativity? What if homosexuality like heterosexuality really is a sacred gift, and those who are gay or lesbian are equal partners in creating God’s beloved community? What if loving relationships of gay men and lesbians are a reflection of God’s love?”

If I am wrong, what has been the cost in welcoming gay men and lesbians to the table as equal partners with straight men and women? How have I failed as a follower of Jesus?
 
If nothing else, by welcoming LGBTQ persons to the faith community, I have offered a group of people that have been kept at the margins a chance to experience the love of God. In addition, the church has benefited from the gifts of those who have participated openly in the life of the church (let’s be clear—the church has, is, and always will benefit from the service of lgbtq persons who are called to make The United Methodist Church their spiritual home. No amount of legislation will prevent the Spirit from calling people--including lgbtq persons--to ministry within our church).

However, for those who currently seek to maintain the restrictive policies regarding homosexuality and The United Methodist Church, what if you are wrong? What has been the cost in excluding gay men and lesbian from full participation in the body of Christ as found in the UMC? What have we lost? What has it done to the souls of lgbtq persons, and yours?

I, for one, would rather be faulted for erring on the side of grace.

5 comments:

  1. I like this to but I think General Conference this time will resemble the 1968 Democratic Convention

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  2. what if God rely meant adultery is ok, what if he really meant lying was ok, we don't let openly sinning people lead our congregations without repentance. I think you need to be careful of using grace to condone sin, sex outside of marriage is a sin, God ordained marriage between a man and a women, if these two things are true, where does that leave sexual active lgbtq persons. Do not exclude lgbtq, love them, do not exclude adulterers, love them

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  3. "I, for one, would rather be faulted for erring on the side of grace." Me too!

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