By Jessica Brodie (Read full coverage of General Conference—click here)
I sat there in the General Conference press room May 17 watching new Council of Bishops President Bruce Ough take a deep breath and bare his soul.
About how he, at age 23, had to make the difficult decision to take his 20-year-old brother off life support after a surprise heart attack.
About how he, at such a young age, had to be the rock for his family.
About how he, in just an instant, went from whole to broken.
Much like The United Methodist Church is breaking, he said, when it comes to the issue of human sexuality.
Except we’re not broken yet, and maybe we don’t have to break at all. Ough, on behalf of the Council of Bishops, begged the Holy Spirit to come into that space and implored the body to embrace a spirit of unity despite division. And the very next day, upon the body’s request, Ough returned to the stage and offered the COB’s “way forward” (see article, here), which effectively hit pause on sexuality legislation and funneled the whole matter to a new study commission.
To some, this was the absolute worst thing to do. Why put off deciding what we already know is right (whichever side of “right” you happen to fall on) and postpone the inevitable? Why drag out the debate and the angst and the litigation any longer when people’s lives and the work of the church are at stake?
But I think what the COB proposed can be a very good thing for the church if we can open our hearts to it. As the days have passed, I’ve come to realize the COB’s plan was designed for those in the ever-present middle, who are unclear about the theology behind either side and can honestly see both perspectives of the debate.
There’s a reason why so many votes seem almost split down the middle: many people aren’t sure what is the right thing to do. They’re calling for an answer from God, poring through Scripture, and for whatever reason are still not getting the clarity they seek.
Is it so wrong to take a collective breath, turn inward and study this thing a little more before we are pressed into a vote? Is it so bad to calm the polarizing forces with a little balm of time?
Maybe it is. But maybe it’s not. And I’d hate to see something as important as the unity of this denomination cavalierly voted upon because people are itching for the final answer.
Sometimes it’s OK to press pause. Sometimes it’s OK to wait for a clearer direction. Sometimes that can make all the difference.
And if a pause might mean a little extra time for our church to figure out a way forward united as one under God, then I’m willing to wait. I’d rather see us together than apart.
In the words of Dr. Tim McClendon, “Together we can do more.” Amen.