My Hope and Prayer is for The UMC to Remain United
In recent years I have gained a whole new perspective on the vast differences in individuals who claim the United Methodist heritage. My husband and I both grew up in relatively small Presbyterian Churches and when we moved to our home in the Apex/Cary area over 22 years ago, we ended up in a United Methodist Church where we remain involved. Initially, I did not understand much at all about Wesleyan traditions and theology, I just knew that it felt like home at St. Francis UMC. Over time as I have learned about the mission and social principles of the UMC, the more I have become “all in”. In the last four years as I have worked with a number of churches it has become increasingly clear that all United Methodists do not think alike, but John Wesley’s famous quote is fitting… “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?”
I admit that in my journey towards being faithful as a Disciple of Christ, I sometimes feel like I have certain things figured out and am waiting for others to catch up and I realize that this attitude is a slippery slope that is not helpful in my attempt to be a faithful witness and one open to God’s further revelation. I acknowledge that I have much to learn and I seek opportunities to do so as often as I can.
Each day I engage with people whose vote at the polls likely cancel mine out, and I encounter people who disagree with me on some of the issues that are dividing our church today. It seems like our church is stuck! We are paralyzed as we disagree on issues of human sexuality and things become even more complex since we are a part of a global church where customs and laws differ from what we experience in the United States.
My exposure to the ways things work in the UMC kicked into a different gear leading up to and during Annual Conference last June when I felt led to offer myself as a potential Delegate and I witnessed the “behind the scenes” jockeying that took place. As a Southeastern Jurisdictional Delegate I have had the opportunity to participate in the preparation for, and some debriefing since, General Conference and I know that I am working alongside people who bring very different perspectives.
As I watched what took place at General Conference I found myself very frustrated and at times I must admit I wondered if the best thing for our church might be to split. It seemed impossible for us to move beyond our differences on Human Sexuality issues and this is distracting us from being the Church in many other ways.
But as I disagree with some of my brothers and sisters in Christ in some areas, I also reflect on those whom I have been blessed to get to know who are faithful in their response and committed to their beliefs but who are currently in a different place from where I am. I reflect on people who have helped me grow when I have been struggling with what my faithful response should be, and people who are God’s beloved and who serve faithfully and witness based on their convictions that just don’t happen to line up with mine. I think of people who I have come to love and respect, those whom have blessed me and the church in many ways. People who I will greatly miss serving with if we find ourselves having to choose a “side”.
We can accomplish so much more for God if we unite our efforts. My hope and prayer is that we will find a way to remain in relationship with one another and remain united as a church. My hope for each of us as individuals (myself at the foremost) is that we will continue to examine where and why and how our beliefs were formed, and that we will remain open to God’s further revelation as we study the life of Jesus and then as we follow the example that Jesus’s life offers to us.
There is a way forward. I do not know what the future holds but I trust that God’s got this. My prayer is that we will remain open so that we can be a part of God’s plan. We must trust God and give God all the glory as we live into something that is much bigger that anything we can imagine.
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