Praying for Portland

I’ve had several requests not to delete this blog. Not trusting my own judgment on such things, I have decided to leave it live.

And since it is live, this seems like the best place for me to share some thoughts for anyone who cares to read them.

It has been a dispiriting 36 hours for me as a United Methodist. In a couple of weeks, I will go forward to be commissioned as a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church. That day comes at the end of a long journey that has had some significant personal costs attached to it. I approach my pre-commissioning retreat as General Conference rages on in Portland. I have nothing but sympathy and respect for the delegates and leaders at the gathering. I cannot imagine the emotional, physical, and spiritual burdens they are bearing.

But I am also finding myself more and more troubled by what I am reading about the conference.

It is not the votes and decisions that trouble me. It is the way my brothers and sisters in the church speak about each other that has me in distress.

As I read commentary and reactions from many different points-of-view from within our church, I find that nearly everyone writes as if the angels were all on one side and the devils on the other. We attack the character and motives of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we defend those attacks with the conviction of one who believes that all righteousness resides on our side of the debate. We point to what “the other side” has done in the past to justify demonizing them in the present. We call people names. We shout about the speck of sawdust in the eye of our adversary. We run as fast as we can to take our brother or sister to court.

And every step of the way, we tell ourselves we must do these things because the stakes are so high.

It is probably right that I am merely coming forward to be commissioned as a provisional elder to serve a small church in Northern Indiana. I am ill-suited to the titanic struggles at General Conference and ill-fitted for the battles that have to be fought there. Even so, I am saddened by what I read. In victory and defeat and deadlock, we seem equally incapable of charity toward one another.

I pray for all my brothers and sisters in the United Methodist Church, and especially those in Portland right now. I pray that God will bless them and keep them and grant them peace.



Divorce in a global church

The Liberia Conference of the United Methodist Church recently upheld a rule prohibiting clergy who are divorced from the office of bishop.

Here is a thoughtful article that raises good questions about the implications of this ruling for the global nature of the United Methodist Church. It has obvious parallels to other debates with in the church.

For my part, I hope the questions raised in the article are addressed by the Judicial Council at some point.

A statement from African bishops

Here’s a statement issued by a meeting of 11 of 12 active United Methodist bishops from conferences in Africa.

(Someone out there help me out by tallying how many United Methodists these bishops shepherd.)

Thanks to Creed Pogue for helping with the following. These bishops lead “4,392,638 professing members in 2013 or about half again as much as the Northeastern, North Central and Western Jurisdictions combined.”

Read the whole statement at the link, but here is a passage that spoke strongly to me:

One of the functions of the Bishops of the church is to “maintain the unity of the church”.  As leaders of the church, we believe that there are far more important issues that unite us than issues of sexual orientation. As a church, we are called to be in solidarity with people who suffer as a result of unjust political systems, wars, famine, poverty, natural disasters, diseases, illiteracy , etc. We believe that we can be united around these issues rather than allow ourselves to be ripped apart by issues of sexual orientation.