02/02/20

These days, I always get nervous when the United Methodist Church is in the news.  Mainly because it never seems to be about the good we are doing in the world and always about our polity.  Polity is a church word which essentially means the rules of which we as a denomination have established for ourselves in order to best do the work of God as a church and a people of Christ Jesus.  Our Polity is what we often point to as differentiating ourselves from other denominations... yes we are all One church under Jesus Christ... but we are not like those folks because... then lots and lots of pages are written.  And that is our Polity.

 

So, over the past few years... really decades... the Methodist church has been debating one part of our denominational church polity and that is how we as Methodist feel about the inclusion of LGBQT folks in our church.  Do we think they can be church leaders?  Do we think they can be ordained?  Do we think it is right to marry people of the same sex?  And mainly, it comes down to Do we welcome people or groups of people who we may think are different than us?

 

For many in the church the answer has been “Yes” and for just as many the answer has been “No” and for yet just as many others the answer has been “Yes and No.”

 

And so, our denomination was in the news a couple of weeks ago because of something called “The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.”  And there has been much written and said about this protocol.  We have been told by the Bishop and our D.S. that we must remember that this Protocol is really just a proposal and like all proposals it will go in front of the General Conference that will meet in May of 2020 and like most proposals it may be changed, rejected, or not even voted on at all.  In other words, this protocol changes nothing... except, maybe we can discern something from the fact this protocol was created.

 

So, what can we learn or at least discern... well, I think and a good number of United Methodist are thinking that this issue of sexuality and ordination and same sex marriage is going to break up the United Methodist church.  And this protocol has all but confirmed this suspicion. It seems that those in the know within the United Methodist Church are of the same opinion and they are forecasting that, after May, the United Methodist Church will not be so united anymore.

Now, as to how that break-up happens or even if the break-up happens next year or two years from now or maybe even longer... is really every ones guess.  None of us in the church can say how all of this is going to play out.  My prayer and the prayer of many (including those who wrote up this protocol) is that we can break-up and go our separate ways without doing too much damage to the church and hopefully one day in the not so distant future find a way to mend fences and once again become a United Methodist Church.

 

In the mean time what are we supposed to do:  Well our Bishop has offered some good advice... Pray with meaning.  Pray with an open mind and pray with calmness in knowing that God is indeed God and none of this stuff that is happening in the UMC will change that.

 

I also like what our D.S. sent out a week ago.  Here are his suggestions in the light of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord:

We would all do well to pause, be still, and remember…

  • The Church is not ours.  It belongs to Christ.  It is Christ’s body.
  • We do not create the Church.  It is a gift, a work of the Holy Spirit.
  • We are connected not because of our institutional polity or because we agree with one another.  We are connected by baptism.
  • The Church has a future, not because we are clever, but because God is faithful.
  • Our inability, at times, to faithfully navigate conflict and division cannot counter God’s work of reconciling all things, including us, making peace through the blood of the cross.

Time will tell how all this will work out and what affect all of this will have on our church of Commonwealth.  Honestly, I am cautiously hopeful that when the dust settles our church will come out on the other side healthy and intact.   However, a lot of that will depend on how we proceed into the next year.  Are we going to simply sit still and allow the discontent and instability of our denomination to define us?  Or, are we going to be proactive and stand-up for what we know in our hearts to be right and let our neighborhoods know we are here for them in the love of Christ... no matter whom they are or whom they love?

 

Grace,

Rev. Steve Kurt