“Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
After watching the United Methodist General Conference this past week, I felt unable immediately to post my feelings. I am disappointed in my denomination, and devastated by the conference’s choice to adopt a plan that is organized around punishment rather than grace, designed to exclude rather than welcome. I think of Jesus eating and drinking with all kinds of people, extending love to them regardless of their sins.
Some have said that the church can still affirm people who are LGBTQI as persons of worth, just not worthy to be ordained. I wonder wat the Pharisees thought of Jesus’ hand-picked disciples. There was the tax collector, Matthew; a Roman collaborator. There were ignorant fishermen! And le’s face it, Jesus appeared to be nothing more than a carpenter from Podunk. He wasn’t a man like Sail if Tarsus, who had studied rhetoric and theology. No, Jesus was just a country bumpkin from Galilee. As Nathaneal asked in John 1:46, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I’m sure the Pharisees and temple officials wondered the same thing.
No, Jesus twelve disciples demonstrate to me tat God not only loves all persons, but God can and does call all kinds of people into ministry. Jesus invited into his inner circle twelve men including one who would betray him, one who would desert him, and all who would misunderstand and contradict him. His love was the model of inclusiveness in set apart ministry.
The UMC has been divided for at nearly 40 years on the issues in play at this conference. As disturbing as the results of this meeting are, there is still hope for the future. First, remember God is still in charge. It took centuries for the church to turn away from slavery, decades to accept women in leadership. Humanity may move slowly, but eventually God’s will prevails. We cannot give up the demand for full inclusion of all persons. But second, we need to be vigilant for signs that God may be moving to do a new thing. The possibility of a new “progressive Methodist” denomination is exciting. I will wait to hear what comes out of their deliberations.
If you are, like me, deeply disturbed by the events of this week, I encourage you to stand firm, prayerfully waiting to see what God will do. And if you are a student or candidate, please know that I am available to be a source of encouragement and hope as we wait on the Lord. Remember the words of the Psalmist: “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.