Come On My Fellow United Methodists:
If the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) can do it
…It’s Time to Come out of the Wilderness!
Well it’s official: “After 33 years of debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has voted to change its constitution and allow openly gay people in same-sex relationships to be ordained as ministers, elders and deacons (Presbyterians Approve Ordination of Gay People by LAURIE GOODSTEIN, May 10, 2011, New York Times).” My heartfelt and sincerest thanks go out to the PC USA for coming to the realization that God’s love and call cannot and should not be limited by human prejudice and fears. Sadly, it will take us United Methodists a few years longer - seven to be exact; if we change our policies of condemnation and discrimination at our next General Conference in April, 2012. That’s right, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness of hypocrisy, hurtfulness, and lost gifts and graces.
Ever since the incompatibility language went in to the United Methodist Book of Discipline in 1972, we have been losing many gifted and talented clergy people from the UMC. Also, we have had to live with the growing irrelevance of a denomination that professes that “Human sexuality… is God’s good gift to all persons (Book of Discipline para. 161F, p. 103),” but then denies to some the call for “everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift (Book of Discipline para. 161F, p. 103).” The hypocrisy has left us with nothing to offer our people in terms of what our responsible stewardship of the sacred gift of human sexuality might look like. Finally, our time in the wilderness has hardly been a time marked by the Wesleyan tradition of the first general rule: “do no harm.” There have been many harmful and shameful words and actions over the past 40 years! Treatment that we will one day be lamenting and praying for healing around, of this I am certain.
So here we are… Our retired Bishops are providing more leadership than our active ones. Our African American scholars and Clergy are reminding us all what it means to be “committed citizens to God’s beloved kingdom” and are calling us to do the right thing. Groups like Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, Reconciling Ministries Network, Affirmation, Mosaic, OnFire, United Methodist of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church and others have and will continue to challenge us to love and accept others as God has shown us love and acceptance. We have so many who are trying to offer us vision and hope; and yet we are still wandering as we have, for almost 40 years, in this wilderness of disagreement and hurt.
How do we get out of this wilderness? Together and hand-in-hand! If you believe as I do that God is love; that we are called to love God with all we’ve got; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If you believe that we are ALL called to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God through life. If you believe that Jesus was and is the incarnation of God’s love that is now supposed to be made manifest in and through the life and ministry of the Church. If you believe all of these things… then your heart is as mine. “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours? … If it is, give me your hand (2 Kings 10:15).” And together, we will do wonderful things to God’s glory!
Together …we will build a church that encourages the gifts, graces and calling of ALL of God’s people. Together …we will have something relevant and God-affirming to say about human sexuality and our stewardship of this gift. Together …we will bring a new sense of purpose and hope to our denomination in spite of our current brokenness. Together …we will heal the wounds of these past 40 years, so that those who have been hurt and those who have done the hurting (on all sides) can walk hand-in-hand together as God intends. Together …we will challenge our leaders to lead and thank them when they do. Together …we will offer a social witness and scriptural holiness that is marked by unquestionable integrity, so that those beyond our walls might come to know us as good and trustworthy friends. But before we get there together, we have to come out of the wilderness. Take those thoughts with you to Annual Conference this year as you discern and discuss legislative issues and the election of delegates. My friends; my fellow United Methodists; 40 years in the wilderness is long enough for any of God’s people!
Rev. Steve Clunn
Coalition Coordinator, Affirmation, MFSA, RMN