Reflections and Prayer for United Methodists
Reflection: John Wesley’s guide for living has been distilled down to Three Simple Rules: 1) Do Good; 2) Do No Harm; 3) Stay in Love with God.* On Tuesday of this past week, in St. Louis, the United Methodist Church walked away from one of our core commitments: “Do no harm.” The actions taken at that gathering have done immeasurable damage to many, especially friends and family who are in the LGBTQ community and to the United Methodist Church’s witness among the young in future generations.
Eight-hundred-sixty-four (864) delegates gathered to consider plans related to our stance on same-sex marriage and matters of ordination. Two-thirds of the delegates from the United States did not support this punitive and restrictive plan. Even so, 53% of all delegates did. Delegates from other nations voted overwhelming “to do harm” to millions.
Those gathered could not agree to join what this congregation has already agreed to do – which is to leave room for loving disagreement about how we interpret scripture. Five (5) passages of scripture, out of 31,000, are cited to offer sanctions against same-sex relationships. Those who voted in favor of the new restrictions believe these verses capture the entirety of God’s timeless will and purposes. We know that scriptures have been misused in the past. There are more than two hundred (200) verses on slavery. There are dozens that have been used to marginalize women — even suggesting they should “keep silent in church.” (Can you imagine!?). In this congregation and thousands of others, we have studied, grown and learned – over the decades. We understand that some beliefs reflect a limited cultural frame. In some cultures, capital punishment may be practiced against those engaged in same-sex relationships. We believe, in this church, just as our fore-bearers did regarding slavery, that there are truths that call us to a greater understanding of God’s purposes than the narrow reading of a few verses.
Sadly, those of us who are Centrists, or who seek a Generously Orthodoxy, or who are Progressive in theology, we who represent the clear majority of United Methodists in the US, are now left with a sense of being exiles in our own denomination. This matter is not resolved. It will take many months, probably years to sort out where the denomination is truly heading. It is messy just now. Here at SD – FUMC, as a leading congregation in the nation and in the west, we are called on to resist, to pray, to think, to give witness, to lead; but more than anything else we will display, here and now, the depth and breadth of God’s love for ALL people.
Our congregation IS NOT CHANGING. We will not be turning back the clock. We will resist being a church that does harm in this way. We will not treat LGBTQ people as second class. We will welcome everyone. There has been much pain — and much grace displayed this week. I have seen tears and also heard whispers of hope for the future… hope that grows stronger and louder each day. Of all the grace, the greatest I have comes from LGBTQ folks.
Join one of the conversations next week or in Trotter Chapel tomorrow evening at 7:00. On June 2nd, on Ascension Sunday, we will focus our worship on the gifts LGBTQ persons bring to the church and this congregation in particular. One final word to all our members, especially our LGBTQ members, their family and friends: I love you., we love you. The great pain the General Conference has caused you is not who we Methodists in this place are – nor who we will be.
Prayer: O God, even in our darkest hours, you surprise us. You lead us into new glimpses of your glory each day… yet we often fail notice. Often, we are caught up in the mundane musings of everyday routines. Then, there are other times, when we overwhelmed by the brokenness of our church and the fractured realities of your world. Today, our prayer is that we will experience a break through, a renewed awareness of your glory. We commit anew to resist the forces that would exclude and harm – that we will stand on the side of faith rather than fear, of acts of love rather than rigid rules that exclude – and, even then, we will open our hearts to those who hold a different view.
We pray that you will give us imagination for the future, strength for our weakness, hope where there is fear, light for the way and grace in the times of trail. We are called to be a people who love one another, a people of grace, a people who seek to do no harm, a people who now that our final home and hope is in your care. Move us today from houses of fear to houses of love.
Knowing that there are many burdens, joys and thanksgivings we bring today, we now pray in silence seeking to better know your purposes for our church, the church universal and our world.
- Silence –
Might we see the world with new eyes – We pray for your church, understanding that we are a small part of your people. Forgive our arrogance for thinking our little disagreements hold any ultimate significance in your kin-dom. Open our eyes and minds and hearts to your guidance. Might we dream new dreams for the church, new openness to others in our ministry and new hope for the future.
- (See Rueben Job’s Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living.)