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Let’s go slowly

Let’s go slowly
Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications

By Jessica Brodie

When we learn big, critical news about something we care very much about, it’s tempting to have an immediate, knee-jerk, gut reaction, then express that reaction instantly across the widest audience possible. Take the big news about The United Methodist Church, which is gearing up for a called special session of General Conference in February to address our divided views on human sexuality (see article here).

Whether we like the two models the Commission on the Way Forward is recommending or not, whether they incite trepidation or anguish or excitement or frustration, this is not a time to get flippant or do rash things. We are members of the body of Christ, and as Christians who call ourselves United Methodist, the best course right now is to pause, breathe, digest and learn as much as we can about our denomination’s possible ways forward.

A couple of churches elsewhere in the nation have pulled out of the UMC, certain they know our denomination’s course. Others are grumbling, while others are avoiding all talk of sexuality or difference for fear talk will lead us astray. Talking is OK—good, even. Likewise for expressing opinions, questioning options, proposing solutions.

But let’s go slowly here. Let’s talk with, not talk at. Let’s talk, not do … yet.

Remember: the two models recommended by the commission are two of many they have been working on—and the two they and the Council of Bishops believe is our denomination’s best way forward in unity. But they’re also not yet final. As we go to press on this edition, the bishops have yet to meet and receive their finalized report from the commission, then craft their report for the special session. And even if we do not like their report, the Judicial Council has yet to rule whether other petitions can factor in. And then the church gets a chance to vote on all of this when we collectively gather in February in St. Louis.

There’s a process for this. The proverbial writing is not on the wall. In fact, as people guided by the Holy Spirit, I would argue anything can happen. God has this in His hands, my friends. His will is going to be done.

So close your eyes and let your lungs fill with the deep, fresh aroma of the Spirit. Give it permission to move in you and use you, to work through you as you do God’s work.

And as you do that work, let one Scripture fill your soul and calm your mind: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

34 Comments

  • Philippians 3:17-21 is a more appropriate scripture to use at this time. “Dear Brothers, pattern your lives after mine and notice who else lives up to my example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again now with tears in my eyes, there are many who walk along the Christian road who are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal loss, for their god is their appetite; they are proud of what they should be ashamed of; and all they think about is this life here on earth. But our homeland is in heaven, where our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ is, and we are looking forward to his return from there. When He come back He will take these dying bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same mighty power that He will use to conquer all else everywhere.” With prayer and the Holy Scriptures, God will certainly have the final say in this matter of human sexuality. A vote will not, necessarily solve the conflict.

    • I agree that we should pattern ourselves and our church after the one at the head of them both: Jesus. Jesus loved, and he calls us to love. Let’s ensure that we never find ourselves telling others that love is wrong.

    • Ron you are quoting Paul not Jesus.

  • You said that we need to remember that the two models that are being discussed are among “many they are working on.” I’ve been following the news reports from the UMC news services, and from what I have read, there aren’t “many” that they have been working on, but only three.

    Also, further UMC reporting says that the commission is only recommending two of the three models, discarding the traditional model that says to leave the Book Of Discipline as it is.

  • My whole life I have been taught by both clergy and by scripture that we are IN this world to testify to the truth of Jesus Christ, the Word of God. We are IN the world not OF the world. Both proposals published so far seem to be proposing the opposite. They seem to be letting the world change us instead of us changing the world to make disciples for Jesus. My question is are we going to rewrite the rewrite the discipline and the BIBLE so they will conform to these new proposals?
    Yes we should go slow and fully consider all proposals including leaving things as they are now and enforcing the discipline.

    • Mark, you are allowing the world’s prejudice against gay people to blind you to Jesus’ central message of love. Telling people they can’t get married is in no way part of making disciples for Christ.

  • Questions on my Heart —
    The final words of the Gospel of Matthew has come to be known as ‘The Great Commission.’ When will the ‘Making of Disciples’ or the lack thereof warrant it’s on ‘Special General Conference?’

    Personal Salvation and Social Holiness are the fruits of a redeemed life transformed by Christ. In the midst of an ever changing world is it no longer possible for ‘the redeemed’ to love and disagree without demonizing each other?

    If the laws of the land change and conflicts with our Holy Bible does that mean the Bible is wrong; or does it mean we need to rethink or reinterpret our Holy Bible?

    Has our Holy Bible lost its holiness and its power because the laws of the land changed?

    1 Corinthians 15:58 +++ May we be steadfast with our prayers, radically hospitable in our conversations and unmoveable with our faith in the power of Jesus to draw us closer to Him as we move closer to February 2019.

  • Yes, let’s go slow. Let’s talk more. We’ve only been talking about this for 45 years in our churches, in our district meetings and at General Conference. 45 years is just not enough time to hear what the other side believes, if our differences are irreconcilable or to determine what the Scriptures teach. Let’s go slowly and gently into that good night.

    • Rob:

      Well stated. We’ve talked long enough; the time for action is now (and was yesterday and the day before that and the day before that and ad nauseam…..).

  • Did we go this slow and have this much conversation when the church spoke of dissolving the central jurisdiction?

  • Jesus gave us two commandment – Love God and Love your Neighbor (which means everyone). I have to believe if he thought homosexuality was so wrong he would have taught on it. Instead he spent a lot of time speaking about money. Something to think about…

    • Rosalie:

      I implore you to spend some thoughtful Spirit-directed time with these words of Jesus, words in which he affirms, confirms, and otherwise validates God’s will for human sexuality:

      Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19: 3-6, NASB)

      That Jesus did not specifically mark homosexual behavior (note I did not write “attraction”) as sinful (against God’s will) speaks more to the cultural/religious milieu in which he lived than to his ignorance, willful or otherwise, of the matter.

      And as I learned long ago from my loving parents, “Unconditional love does NOT equal unconditional approval.”

    • Frank: Thanks for your advice. After having spent some thoughtful Spirit-directed time with those words of Jesus, I find myself confounded that you are using it to condemn practicing homosexual people rather than divorced people. Why are you okay with your clergy member being divorced but not being in a same-sex marriage?

      I would suggest to you that your assumption that Jesus is against gay marriage speaks more to the culture/religious milieu in which you live.

  • The Bible does not condemn homosexuality. Jesus said nothing about it. He did tell us to Love God and Love one another, a radical concept if there ever was one. I love the Methodist Church, I belong to it and I am told I am a Child of God. Generations of my family, some of them homosexual, have served and loved in this Church.
    I left Christianity for a long time, but it was a United Methodist Church, with the beautiful and life-changing Word of God, an amazing and loving community, an inspired and faithful pastor, where God reached out to me with His Holy Spirit and brought me back home to Him.
    So OK, I will continue to pray, to talk and listen, and to worship and study and work together with fellow Christians who don’t agree with me, including in our interpretation of the Bible. There is room in the Body of Christ for all of us. I will wait til 2020. But 40 years is long enough: at that point if the United Methodist Church as an institution continues to disregard Jesus’ teaching and condemn, discriminate, and promote prejudice against LGBTQ brothers and sisters like me, including those who are called to ministry or wish to marry, or any other group for that matter, it will be time to form a new Methodist Church, where we can all try and follow Jesus’ teaching whoever we are.
    May Jesus continue to watch over and lead all of us poor sheep!

    • Ruth:

      Rosalie:
      I implore you to spend some thoughtful Spirit-directed time with these words of Jesus, words in which he affirms, confirms, and otherwise validates God’s will for human sexuality:

      Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19: 3-6, NASB)

      That Jesus did not specifically mark homosexual behavior (note I did not write “attraction”) as sinful (against God’s will) speaks more to the cultural/religious milieu in which he lived than to his ignorance, willful or otherwise, of the matter.

      And as I learned long ago from my loving parents, “Unconditional love does NOT equal unconditional approval.”

  • I am an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church and I believe strongly that we should Love the individual, but their sins. What is sin? The Bible reveals that sins is violation against God’s Laws. We need to maintain the present Book of Discipline.

    • Dr. Morris: The current Book of Discipline does not make adherence to God’s Laws a requirement for our clergy. It doesn’t even mention all of them. We can’t even agree that homosexuality is a sin because the Bible is so vague about it. The Bible is quite straightforward about all sorts of other sins. Yet our Discipline does not use them as a criteria to block people from ministry like it does homosexuality. You’re going to have to write a little more than what you have above to make your argument about keeping the Discipline as is.

  • Romans 12:2

    • Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

      The sad thing about this is that both sides think the other side is the one conforming to the pattern of the world.

    • John, there is nothing sad about scripture

    • Linda, obviously I didn’t communicate my point well. One sad thing about this controversy is that each side believes it is the side that is aligning itself with Paul’s verse. I am not meaning to imply that I think Scripture is sad.

  • I’m ok with our gay friends worshiping with us. If homosexually is a sin, come sit with me because I am a sinner, too. I am not settled yet on the issue of sanctioning gay marriage in our churches and by our clergy, nor am I yet settled on the ordination of practicing homosexuals by our church. I understand both sides of the conversation and trust that God will inform me about what is right. I do, though, have difficulty with two associated issues. First, I am deeply disappointed by the amount of energy and resources spent and wasted on this topic over the past four decades. The UMC has lost a fair amount of focus on the real purpose of our mission found in the Great Commission and Jesus’s instructions regarding our care for those among us. I’m embarrassed by this.

    The other issue that bothers me is the cavalier attitude which ordinands and some church leadership has addressed the lies spoken several times by those practicing homosexuals who have become clergy in our church – at least three times for those who have been ordained as bishops. The lies of which I speak are those spoken when ordinands as deacon, elder and bishop pledge to, among other things, uphold the laws of the church as found in the Book of Disciplines of the UMC. When did it become ok to lie to those present, the UMC at large and to God when making that pledge? And when did it become ok for those officials ordaining active homosexual clergy or discovering actively gay clergy in our midst to turn a blind eye to these breaches of the sacred pledges? It seems to me that our denomination’s slide toward irrelevance began – and continues today – in the early ’70’s at about the same time the issue of homosexually took a central place in our conversation. I realize that our slide to irrelevance is more complex than this one issue, but i believe the correlation deserves consideration.

    • Hear, hear Patrick!!
      Finally I found a statement I can support and totally agree with. We are all sinners. I welcome every one into my church as long as we agree with this concept of us all being sinners and the fact that we are all working to improve and change our lives to become more like Christ!
      I do however believe that I don’t want my children to be led/taught by someone who believes his/her sin of homosexuality is OK or not a sin. My kids deserve better. I will not stay in a church that allows homosexuals to be leaders. Members, yes, just not leaders!

  • Frank,
    The quote from Matthew 19 is a beautiful passage of Jesus’ teachings on the ideal of married love. Why would you deny this beauty for people like me when Jesus Himself does not? “What God has joined let no man put asunder.”
    I’d ask you in turn to spend some prayerful Spirit-filled time on why you feel this way about people like me.
    May we walk the path with Jesus together, even though we both think the other one is a sinner…
    Ruth

  • IT IS BEYOND MY IMAGINATION THAT THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH EVEN OPENED THE DOOR TO THE HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA. IT IS CONTRARY TO THE WORD OF GOD. GOD’S WORD IS THE SAME FROM THE BEGINNING TILL THE END OF TIME. ITS NEVER CHANGING … WHAT PART OF THIS DOES THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS NOT UNDERSTAND??? FOR ME AND MY HOUSE WE WILL BELIEVE IN THE WORD OF GOD. THEY ARE THE ONES THAT WILL SPLIT THE U. M. CHURCH BY TRYING TO APEASE THE WORLD. WHAT WE NEED TO ADRESS IS THE FAMILY… FOR MOST FAMILIES… THE FAMILY STRUCTURE DOSE NOT EVEN EXSIST. WE HAVE TO TEACH THE WORD AND LIVE IT SO OUR FAMILIES CAN SEE IT. MY PRAYER IS THAT GOD WILL SEND SOMEONE TO LEAD US THROUGH THIS TIME.

    • Precisely. Romans 12:2

    • Linda, you mean you think that your verse from Paul is proof that homosexuality is contrary to the Word of God?

  • Love is patient, kind and does not insist on its own way. Paul’s words ro Corinth, a church divided. We should witness the love of God, of Jesus Christ, by our love.

  • I think we need to step back and look at what the word really says, none of us alive today can guarentee that what we read is the actual Words spoken by Jesus in reference to our Discipline. We have a history of laws and rules to govern the United Methodist Church that come under scrutiny every four years, all United Methodist know this that is one of the functions of the General Conference governed by accepted petitions. We know that the only life and practice that each of us is responsible for is our own. Our mission as a church is simply to “make disciples for Jesus Christ” We have no rights to tell anyone who they can marry than they have to tell us. I would not accept it in my life, I most certainly would not go church hopping behind it. Whereever you go there are going to be rules and regulations that do not ask you if you live with them or not. We need to recognize, that in case you have not there is a part of the Discipline Book that changes every four years and now all of a sudden some want it to remain the same. Can’t you reconize your own prejeduces in this idea? If we would spend half of our time and efforts on the Great commission what a difference we would make in the world. We cannot speak honestly to love until we are reflecting love for all of God’s people.

  • Why is it that no one has mentioned Leviticus 18: 12, Leviticus 20: 13, !st. Corinthians 6: 9-10, Romans 1: 26-27, or 1st Timothy 1: 8-10, or Jude 7? What do these passages say to you; or the Council of Bishops?
    Why are our leaders not individually speaking out and taking a position? our Bishops, District Superentendents, Pastors? They are our leaders, why are they not leading?

    As a lifelong United Methodist, I now see leaders as not having the fortitude to lead. Cowards? (like today’s congresspersons.) We need leadership now! Our Pastors are now attending meetings each week away from home that are not described to any of their flock. They return with sermons about justice, fairness, acceptance. some of us read into this an agenda? Right, Wrong, confusing! Leaders, stand up! Lead. We are confused!

  • lets cut through the chase,if same sex couples, marriages, or union ect. think is ok what they do in the eyes of the Lord, then they should go forth and multiply as the Lord commanded, if they wand to be practicing sinners and not forgiving sinners like the rest of the us in the UMC then they should start their own church. I’m just a old forgiven sinner (and yes, I have to get forgiveness every day) but the way I see it there is going to be plenty of room in heaven and a waiting line to get in hell.

  • I think it would be of great benefit if the editor referred to the Holy Spirit as HE Not it.

  • Over the past two weeks we’ve learned this article is now outdated and that three proposals went forward for voting. Now non-Progressive Methodists have the opportunity to let the COB know the Bishop’s favored One-Church Model is not favored by the majority of United Methodists. I remain hopeful!.

  • As I read the Bishops’ two proposals, my thoughts went immediately to the church at Laodicea in Revelatiion 3:14-22. They too had a “lukewarm” faith that sought approval of the world/culture rather than pleasing God. Verse 16 is very explicit in expressing God’s response to lukewarm Christians and churches

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