I’ve been praying for a moment of conviction in this walk toward the Called United Methodist General Conference. Too often I’ve talked, been in meetings, shared stories and information thinking that the conviction I was seeking had to do with the future direction of the institution of The UMC, even though it is clear that the institution has to change. My mind has been focused on the details: definition of marriage, ordination demands, funding of ministries, pensions, connection of local churches to the larger body. You can get lost in those details. God can get lost in those details.
A short time ago, in the middle of this dark night, there was a revelation. This journey is not about specific votes that will be cast and counted over the next week. This journey is mine to walk toward God. It is a journey for each of us who call ourselves United Methodist to walk toward God.
Most people will say, just as the Associated Press did yesterday in an article, that we are about to cast our votes to decide the future of the denomination. Yes, that is the earthly process. Yet tonight, in the stillness of these early morning hours, I have finally realized that for me this is about how I see the call of God on my life. How do I walk forward toward the God I want to reflect in the world through my faith in Jesus Christ?
So tonight, despite all my years of talking about it, I finally realize what all this is about.
This is not a vote on full participation of persons who are LGBTQ+ in the life of The United Methodist Church. This is a personal witness as to how I see Jesus’ call to be Beloved Community at work in the world. It is my testimony about how Jesus came into my heart and called me to be a part of living his message in order to leave the world better for those I walk with and for future generations.
It’s not about the Wesleyan Covenant Association desiring a more traditional church or the Love Your Neighbor Coalition advocating a more progressive theology. It’s about Martha learning to walk amid all the voices, better define her understanding of this man named Jesus, and realize that God calls us all to be community together – Beloved Community together – where I have been called to a role based upon my understanding of scripture, the traditions of the church that I hold dear, my personal life experiences and my times of clear reasoning – as few as they may seem these days.
It’s not just about gender identity and sexual orientation. It’s about sexism, racism, ageism, colonialism, ableism, lookism, sizeism and all the other -isms. God has never called us to be divided, but we have over centuries created multitudes of separation. This journey is about Martha learning to live differently – as a Christian called to bring forth the Kingdom of God here on this earth right now.
It’s not about preserving an institution. If a decision comes that might change my participation in The United Methodist Church as I know and love it, I will grieve. I will mourn. I am United Methodist to the core. If the denomination splinters, a part of me will die. If I am called to leave, a part of me will die. I’ve been considering that possibility for years and only in the last few months have I truly realized that even if the denomination changes drastically, my foundations of faith will not. I will still believe that faith and social action must go hand-in-hand. I will still believe that John Wesley had it right when he preached that we had to care for the whole person in order to help people hear the Gospel message. I will still believe in grace. I will still know that God’s got all this stuff and my job is to figure out how to live in the example of Jesus.
It’s not about a vote – no matter how many people tell me it is. It’s not about who will leave or who will stay – no matter how many people tell me it is. It’s not about apportionments or church attendance numbers. It’s not about doctrine or the church’s constitution. It’s about my role and yours in the Body of Christ, not an individual building or polity of a particular denomination. It’s about coming to understand who God is calling me to be as I try to move on toward perfection. And boy will that still take a tremendous amount of work and energy.
The Spirit’s got a lot more work to do in me.