aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Hard truths spoken as lovingly as I can speak them

I shared with my Church Council tonight about the Wesleyan Covenant Association launch. In order to make sense of it, I had to explain what-all has been going on in the UMC over the last year and a half. I think I've been more pro-active than most in telling people about this, but I haven't really told them the whole story. I've been reluctant to.

For one thing, I don't want to be seen as some sort of zealot, or be defined by what I'm against. My main focus is on making disciples and leading the church here, not dealing with denominational controversies.

But also, I am aware, even as I tell the story of what's been going on, how much it will probably hurt some people. There are lots of people, even in mostly-conservative, traditional congregations, who want to hang onto their church family, even as they love members of their home families who are gay, or transgender, or into progressive advocacy. They don't want to choose which to stay with and which to leave; and they shouldn't have to choose which to stay with and which to leave. It is monstrous that anybody should be wounded and torn by the inability of the Church to maintain its dedication to both love and truth.

Unfortunately, the rapidly deteriorating situation in the UMC is forcing everybody's hands. Whether we like it or not, change is coming to the UMC; indeed, the UMC may not exist in the form we know it in a few years. If we don't find a way to live together, we will either implode or explode. Finding a way to live together is not possible when General Conference writes rules that clergy (mostly, but also some lay members) will not obey and the bishops won't enforce. As Lincoln said of our country long ago, I don't think we can continue part this, part that, much longer. Either we will all become one thing, or all the other. Or we will simply break apart.

Many of us clergy have tried to hide from this. And we've tried to protect the laity from it. We kept hoping that the Church could figure out some way to get along. But it's not going to be possible to hide much longer. If the UMC starts to break apart -- or threatens to -- then all of us will have to say on which side of some line or other we will take our stand. And as the clergy are finally forced to say where they will stand, so too, the laity, the congregations, the conferences. And no such break, if it comes, will be clean. Congregations will be divided. Conferences will be divided. Even families may become divided.

The WCA wants to uphold orthodox teaching and maintain the covenant we (especially, we clergy) entered into when we joined. I agree with those goals. At the same time, I know and love many people with contrary opinions, some derived from their theology and some derived from their life experience. I am committed to be in ministry to all my flock, including those who disagree with me or who practice alternative lifestyles. I don't want anybody to have to choose between values or relationships in order to prove somebody else right. Insofar as I can, I want to hold people together in love and help each one face whatever demands may be placed upon us by the changes that are coming.

And so we wait for the Bishops' Commission on a Way Forward to meet and report. We need to pray for the commission members and for their meetings. And in the meantime, we need to study how to live out the love and integrity that the Lord expects all his disciples to manifest.

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