The battle over sexuality rages with new energy. The Just Resolution decision instead of a trial for Rev. Olgetree (this 80 year old retired clergy presided at the same-sex wedding for his son, and fellow clergy filed charges against him) has ignited a firestorm of separatist talk, exposing more fully the deep divisions among us.
IT IS TIME TO STOP.
It is time to stop and pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him, “teach us to pray.”
IT IS TIME . . .
To stop and acknowledge that only God is holy.
To stop and ask, with humble hearts, for God’s will to be done, and put our own will and plans on the altar of relinquishment, so the kingdom of heaven may enter and flourish on earth.
To stop and ask that for this day, we might have the spiritual sustenance to live as those who are willing to follow Jesus all the way to the cross, where we will die for our enemies.
To stop and acknowledge that we are greatly in need of forgiveness, and that unless we will engage in the deep and painful work of forgiving those who have wronged us, we will never be able to revel in the joy of the forgiveness that is being freely granted to us.
To stop and recognize how easy it is to fall into the path of evil, to succumb to the temptation to believe that we ourselves are God and have all insight.
To stop and give God all the glory, all the honor, and bend our knee before the Holy One who holds all creation in love, power and redemptive hope.
To stop and reach out a hand to a brother or sister with whom we are in deep, soul-agonizing disagreement and agree to be in our journey to entire sanctification in connection with one another, even if that connection must change shape or form.
To stop and be still in unearned grace, freely given and infinitely costly.
If we will not, as a people who call themselves Christian and recipients of grace, then it is best if the human organization called “The United Methodist Church” cease to exist, for we have nothing to offer to anyone except unmanageable bureaucracy, unwieldy structure, unhealed division, and unending, increasingly vituperative controversy.
If we will, then there is possibility of scales falling from our eyes, and a new way of seeing and being united in covenantal grace and connectional structure but divided in detail may yet emerge.
This is our only hope. No discussion, argument, biblical text, snippet of the BOD, appeal to Jesus or justice, name-calling, preachings, pontifications, posturings, threats to leave or to remove others, trial, or any other human agency can heal this group of people who have claimed the name of “united methodist.”
Once we have reached a point of mutual humility, mutual forgiveness, and a willingness to go to the cross for each other, then we can begin to address seriously the questions before us.
Those questions are huge. We face issues of biblical authority, interpretative methodology, our understanding of gender (and we must address the fact that a fair number of individuals are born “intersexed,” where it is impossible to say with any certainty at birth whether the child is male or female), and how to work with a world-wide church when so much of the Book of Discipline is applicable only to US churches.
There is nothing easy here. We are at another Acts 15 moment in the church, where the formerly despised and outcast are seeking welcome in a religious tradition that had been firmly closed to them. Read that chapter, formational in the life of the church in the midst of birth pangs.
It was a giant moment and sprang from conflict. We are there. And we, too, can be creative, biblical, agree to disagree and still be united in heart and mind.
But we won’t get there until we stop and pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples.
It is time.