Archive for October, 2013

I Believe The United Methodist Church is “Stronger Than The Storm”

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

It is no secret that I celebrated my 80th birthday on October 28th. It has been suggested that one has "arrived" when, rather than complaining about our age, we brag about it. I am "bragging.” I write and share this, not because I believe that I have a depth of insight, and capacity to communicate in some unique way. Rather the reverse is true. I have wondered for years, "Why in the name of heaven don't some of my friends who are scholars, thinkers, theologians, and writers in ways that I am not, write and share their writings with the rest of us?" I think they write only after in-depth research, because they want to be certain their writing is deeply grounded. Much to the dismay of some of you, I am not restricted by possessing that kind of scholarly and intellectual maturity.

These words of writer/teacher of writing, Pat Schneider continue to motivate & inspire my writings; "No one has seen the night sky exactly from your trajectory. No one has loved the people and places you have loved. Who will tell that part of the earth's story if you do not?"

We in New Jersey have responded to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy by allowing the words in quotes found in the title of this blog become a mantra for us. We give our Governor, Chris Christie, credit for those words. (It is possibly because of these words that retired basketball player Shaquille O'Neil has endorsed Christie).

The United Methodist Church has been in a storm, or at least under storm clouds, since 1972 when General Conference passed language and legislation that many of us feel is anti-LGBTQ and insensitive to the fact that same-gender-loving persons fall in love with each other and want to acknowledge and celebrate that love in publicly-, legally- and church-supported ways, as those who are not same-gender-loving do.

Some thoughts about The United Methodist Church in these moments:

1. "Some of my best friends" in The United Methodist Church do not agree with my thoughts and actions regarding gay rights and the continuing struggle for equality and justice for African Americans. It has been interesting and informative that some who agree with me totally on one of these topics, disagree with me on the other. I see similarities between the two, not equivalences; they do not.

2. I believe now, more than ever, that the God of the Church has been, is, and will be, intertwined with both the Church and the state, particularly in the United States. The concept/belief in the "separation of church and state" does not preclude history as it unfolds through the actions of the state, being informed by the intent and intentions of God. I believe the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated racial segregation in public schools, had an imprint of my understandings of the intentions of God. And, I believe the state-sponsored movement toward equality for LGBTQ persons and marriage equality for same-gender-loving persons is also God related. The Methodist Church did not invalidate denominational racial segregation until the formation of the United Methodist Church in 1968, and the UMC is a "tail light" as marriage equality slowly, but surely, becomes the law of the land. As imperfect as complete human equality has been in the United States, it seems the Constitution has done and is doing for the nation what the Bible has been slow to do for The United Methodist Church.

3. I suggest that our denominational wrestling with the living legacies caused by sexism, racism, and now, heterosexism, has kept us (maybe deliberately?) from acknowledging, confronting and transforming what could be the most demonic of all of the isms; Classism, caused by economic and educational imbalance and inequality.

The economy and economic practices of the United States and indeed the world need to hear the Biblical message about human Greed, and yet we are wasting so much time, keeping sexism, racism and heterosexism alive while pretending to be about confronting them.

The movies this year that are slavery and race-centered; Lincoln, Django Unchained, 42, The Butler, and 12 Years A Slave reflect the tyranny that economic greed has played in colonialism, slavery and racial segregation.

I conclude by suggesting The United Methodist Church, more than any Church body, must cease minimizing its mission and ministry by relegating LGBTQ persons to "their place", as it once did to women and African Americans. Its major ministry in the 21st century, I believe, ought relate to why in a world that possesses "God's Plenty", there are so many of God's people, who have little or nothing.

"Who will tell that part of the earth's story if The United Methodist Church does not?"

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Rev. Gill Caldwell is retired United Methodist clergy living in Asbury Park, NJ. He is former Associate General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race and one of the founders of Black Methodists for Church Renewal.  As a long-time MFSA supporter, Gil's ministry of writing challenges the United Methodist Church to be the best it can be.

Gratitude and Support: An Open Letter to Bishop Mary Ann Swenson

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Dear Bishop Swenson,                                                                                

On Friday, October 25th, the Board of Directors of the Methodist Federation for Social Action received and shared your statement written in dissent of the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops.  Your support of Bishop Melvin Talbert, who engaged in pastoral ministry by performing the blessing of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince’s marriage in Alabama, gave us hope and strength for our work ahead.

We give our heartfelt thanks and offer our support of the truth you shared in saying that “faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus and his new commandments given to us in the Scriptures – trumps following the letter of the law in our Discipline.  We fully embrace your call of encouragement to your “colleague bishops to follow the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, to ignore these unjust laws of our Discipline, and to permit United Methodist clergy who find it in their consciences and in their duties to fulfill the pastoral needs of those in their flock to celebrate ceremonies of Christian marriage for same-gender couples to do so.”  We recognize that Jesus denied ministry to no one and we urge The United Methodist Church to follow this example as a primary way of showing God’s love and grace which is the way to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the world.

We want to acknowledge both Bishop Talbert’s and your courage in being both prophetic and pastoral shepherds to our denomination.  We fully recognize the history of bishops being ostracized for such actions. We pray that the Council of Bishops will provide greater support and grace to you than others have received in the past. We give thanks for Bishop Mel Wheatley and other church leaders, clergy and lay, who have been a gift of blessing and witness to our United Methodist Church. We agree with you that “the language in our Discipline is wrong.” We join you in your urging that “no LGBTQ person should have to wait any longer to experience the full love of God in Christian community at a United Methodist church.”

Bishop Swenson, we know that you will face many messages of condemnation and anger as a result of your faithfulness. Please know that we, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, are holding you in our prayers and offer our deepest gratitude and support for your words and willingness to extend pastoral care and love to all United Methodists

In grace and peace,

Chett Pritchett, Executive Director

Rev. Vicki Woods, Co-President

Rev. Christina Wright, Co-President                            

on behalf of the directors and staff present at the October 2013 Board of Directors meeting in Atlanta, GA.

Press Release: MFSA Board Responds to Council of Bishops’ Statement

Friday, October 25th, 2013

In Response to Bishops’ Statement Regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert: This Causes Spiritual Carnage

ATLANTA – October 25, 2013 – The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) applauds Bishop Melvin Talbert in providing pastoral care in blessing the loving relationship of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince, two children of God, and acknowledging the love of Christ present in their marriage. We are deeply disappointed by the statement from the executive committee of the Council of Bishops which refuses to acknowledge God's presence, beautifully expressed in the joyous experience of two people finding love and inviting their faith community into that celebration.

In their statement, our Episcopal leaders reference their charge to "promote the temporal and spiritual interests of the entire Church," but send the message that certain people are incompatible with Christian teaching and reduces the celebration of their love to a chargeable offense which injures our LGBT fellow members. This causes spiritual carnage. Such actions damage relationships with God and turn God's children away from the Church.  Further, the discrimination inherent in The UMC's policies relating to LGBT persons is then used to provide cover for hate.  The expression of this hate leads to broken relationships with family and with God, to broken lives, and too often even to broken bodies. In clinging to our current policies, The UMC turns the Book of Discipline into a weapon of harm and is complicit in this violence.

As a result, we find the executive committee's actions a contradiction to their professed commitment "to live in loving and respectful relationships with one another and with all United Methodists and all people of faith.”

Therefore, the Methodist Federation for Social Action invites and encourages all United Methodists to join with us in celebrating the love of Joe and Bobby and the prophetic leadership of Bishop Melvin Talbert. We call on the Council of Bishops to fully embrace their charge to care for and promote the spiritual interests of the whole Church with hearts and arms wide open.

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Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both Church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice within The United Methodist Church.

National Office:212 East Capitol St., NE,Washington, DC 20003 * tel: 202.546.8806 *email: mfsa@mfsaweb.org