Thoughts from Gil Caldwell on an important day in the Advent calendar:
I did not think that I would get to my computer today. After all, today is Christmas! But we have a tradition in my household of tuning the TV to the image of a burning log in a fireplace — with the familiar and beautiful Christmas music in the background — and it was the music as well as the flickering flames in the fireplace on TV that pushed me to come to my computer to do what I do so often: write something and then share blind copies of what I have written with others, unsolicited.
My mind is focused on the United Methodist Church. This question has been circulating within me for some time, and for some reason on Christmas Day, 2013, I share it with others. The question…
Is it possible for the United Methodist Church, considering the words and tone of the words of Pope Francis, as well as the worldwide outpouring of appreciation for Nelson Mandela and the "new" South Africa he helped to create, to call timeout on charges, trials, and withdrawal of ministerial credentials from those who perform same sex marriages? There is something about the advancing movement to legalize same sex marriages in the nation, the unrestrained joy and love that same sex couples express in response to the legalization of their right to marry, and the need for the UMC to address the pressing economic concerns/income inequality, etc. that exist in the USA and the world, that makes our public, much publicized, official UNWELCOME MAT for same sex couples, demeaning and diminishing when juxtaposed to our history and heritage of social and justice ministry as a denomination. (A long sentence written on Christmas Day requests of the reader, a large degree of Christmas joy and patience).
Some United Methodists say that those of us who support marriage equality for same sex couples should leave the UMC and become UCCs, Episcopalians, Presbyterians or Unitarian Universalists. And, I have resisted suggesting that those who want us to leave the UMC, should leave and become Southern Baptists, Catholics or Mormons. But, leaving the UMC, regardless of our differences is not what the Spirit of Christmas is nudging me to write on this "Day After the Day before Christmas".
I believe that the "Love (that) Came Down at Christmas" compels us as a denomination to acknowledge that "Love is not a second hand emotion", (Tina Turner's. "What's Love Got To Do With It?"), And, furthermore, no language or legislation in a Book of Discipline can trump love. Pope Francis is saying this, and I believe it was the mutual love of a new South Africa, that created a bond between Nelson Mandela and those who opposed him. What will it take for us to create a "new" United Methodist Church, not in structure or organization, but in Love?
229 year ago, Methodists began the process of organizing the Methodist Episcopal Church on December 24, 1784, in what is called the "Christmas Conference". Could the United Methodist Church gather in December of 2014, 230 years after the original "Christmas Conference", in order, in the name of God, to "get our act"; our mission and ministry, together?
Gilbert Haven Caldwell
Asbury Park, New Jersey
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.