What matters most is not up for a vote…

No matter what happens at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church in the next couple of days; the world will still be my parish, doing no harm will still be my focus, grace will still be the air that I breathe, all persons will still be of sacred worth, social and ecological holiness will still be my mission, bringing good news to the poor and oppressed will still be my witness, and loving all of my neighbors and doing justice with the most vulnerable will still be my calling. The Methodist movement is greater than the United Methodist Church, and the way of Jesus is always greater than any denominational expression.

During his time, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, drew the circle wide. He drew the circle of grace wide to include all persons; he drew the circle of his parish wide to include the whole world; he drew his circle of care wide to include all creation; he drew the circle of his mission wide to be with people outside of the church and on the streets; and he drew the circle of holiness wide to include the social. Wesley drew the circle of the church much wider than how he had found it, which makes it all the more ironic that the end of United Methodism may come through drawing its circle of community to be more narrow rather than more wide.

Those who are “traditionalists” in what is for now still called the “United Methodist Church” have the power, they have the votes, and they are more organized than those who are working for a denomination that is open and affirming of persons who are LGBTQIA+. As I write this, it is not absolutely clear what the final result of the General Conference will be when it adjourns on Tuesday, but given today’s votes which prioritized the Traditional Plan over the One Church Plan, the likelihood that the United Methodist Church will leave this General Conference less inclusive than it was before is quite high.

For persons who are LGBTQIA+ and for all who want a more inclusive church for all people, there is much to mourn about the direction General Conference took today, but it is not a really a surprise. The hearts of the majority of the persons in our denomination have been hardening against our LBGTQIA+ siblings for quite some time.

In this moment of defeat for a more inclusive United Methodist Church, let us not be afraid, let us support and love one another, and let us continue to work for justice for all people. And let us be reminded that followers of the way of love and justice have done some of their most transformative work when it looked like they had been knocked out by the powers that be. The power of love will not be entombed forever. We will bring forth new life in Beloved Community, somehow.

One comment

  1. It is very strange to consider how often the “real” issues are not being dealt with in the church. We are in the midst of an “ecocide” and very likely the sixth great extinction. Wealth inequality is shocking, and growing, and as history proves, will end in violence. Authoritarian movements are on the rise all over the world, and in America the unacceptable has become acceptable as engineered chaos numbs the conscience of a nation into resigned acceptance. Social media has not been our savior, connecting the world and bringing peace, but part of the problem as fewer people sit down to talk face to face about what is really happening, and what the real threats are. I am not a United Methodist, but some of my favorite people are, and I grieve what is happening. As a minister in the United Church of Christ for 40 years, which crossed this bridge years ago and opted for full inclusion of LGBTQ people into the full sacramental hospitality of the church, I can tell you from years of experience that the world did not end. Instead the church could fully welcome some of its most important and dedicated members. When I am out on the road lecturing, I always ask the same question in a serious tone of voice. “Do you know what happens when you welcome LGBTQ persons into your churches?” Pause.
    “Do you know what really happens?” Pause. Answer:
    There are lots of urgent matters that required the spirit of Wesley in our time. Whether or not to welcome everyone into our churches cannot, by definition, be one of them.

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