Division and Hatred—-Not Tools of a Christian
I have been asked a lot these last weeks and months as to where I stand on everything you could possibly name, but especially on the homosexuality issue; as it comes to the vote we had as the full body of the United Methodist Church this last February. For the most part, my answer has been known, as I happily accepted an appointment to my reconciling church of St. John’s on the Lake, in 2017. What these questions have left open, is a door to explain much more and it is important that I share that with you; as you should be able to use and walk through that same door.
I have been able to talk about God’s grace and what I believe that looks like, about the dangers of literal-ism (when every person who ever put a pen to paper comes with their own prejudices), “isms”, and the culturally bound interpretations as to those words. That includes those who penned the book of the Bible! I have been able to ask questions of the questioners and then talk with them about where they got their ideas from, all the while gently suggesting that others may not see it the same because of “X”. We all need to understand each other. I have been able to use the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and show how important our Scripture and Traditions are, but even more so when we use Reason and Experience to analyze where emotions and narrative culture are like building a home upon the sand of a beach… they move so much it eventually will collapse.
Most of all though, I hope that I have expressed that I would be extremely sad if my congregation and I were seen as anything but loving; even of those who we strongly disagree with. If we weren’t, then we would fall into the ways of those we disagree with. We should be listening to the words of love and acceptance, just as we are, by God, that is in all of the Bible.
“We want to be clear that, while we love our congregation, we believe that the United Methodist policies on LGBTQ+ clergy and same sex marriage are immoral,” the group wrote in a statement. “We are concerned that if we join at this time, we will be sending a message that we approve of this decision.” These words were said by the teens of an Omaha, Nebraska church when they objected to becoming members of their church after finishing their confirmation classes..
“Depending on how this church responds to the general conference action, we will decide at a later time whether or not to become officially confirmed,” the group’s statement said. “But until then, we will continue to stand up against the unjust actions that the denomination is taking.” (See the full article at https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/01/us/united-methodist-church-confirmation-lgbt-trnd/index.html)
I applaud these teens, not just for standing up for what they believe to be right and just, according to their own interpretations of scripture; but for not being divisive in an ugly and hate-filled way. We can all learn from them and keep them in mind.
St. John’s will continue to strive in helping the community deal with how to love and support all people. While that will continue to go along with our affirmation as a community of Christians, it will be with an ever-present eye towards the goal of keeping communications alive, having relationships that are meaningful and strong with those we do not agree with so that we do not divide and understand each other during hard times. We will do everything possible to show our community that we stand with Jesus. In the gap of where a bridge needs building, with our tools, our spirits, and our minds set on building that bridge.
If you feel the division and hatred that people have for anyone on a different side of you today, in religion, in politics, or in life decisions as a whole…recall this…We become unwitting participants to fear, envy, anger and we hold ourselves out in the public as wanting to oppress others only when we are terribly upset with ourselves and where we are in life. When we are unhappy with ourselves, we instinctively look to denigrate others. Like my grandmother once said to me, the more you think you need to tell others you have something that they do not, or that you are better than them; the more you are telling the world that you are insecure and lack confidence in that area.
Come walk with me and St. John’s congregation this summer as we continue to try to lesson teen suicide, aid families to accept their children as they are made by God, work to clean up our waterways, and to grow our own hearts and minds; all with the spirit of Christ as one for all people, at all times. We can stand up and speak clearly, as those teens in Nebraska did, while awaiting our next step as a church, modeling love and unity, not division for “correctness” sake, as we feel others are doing. May God bless our actions, our dialogue, and our souls!