not at this river, Part the third

Cuyahoga-River-Fire-of-1969This is a continuation of the stories I read from Gather at the River. The first two parts can be found here and here.

Today’s story will come from the reflections of Rev. Jack Lipphart and may be found here.

First, a bit of history.

Between 1868 and 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire at least 13 times. The cause of these fires was rampant and unchecked pollution that caused it to be on of, if not the most, polluted river way in the United States. Recent efforts have revived it somewhat, but in rainy seasons, it still does not meet bacteria standards because of drain overflows and the like. It remains a river teetering on the ever present potential for crises. Keep that thought in mind if you will as I delve into what the good pastor has to say in his reflections.

No More Holy Place to Be” 

This is the title that he chose. Seems inspiring at best, and just another blog title at worst, but think on this for just a moment. The most holy place that he can be is a conference celebrating things that are outside of the teachings of the UMC, and calling for disobedience to teachings that are within the UMC. That should be a cause for concern. Why? I am glad you asked. It is not because he disagrees with the current understanding of the UMC that it should be disturbing. It should be disturbing because he is willing to destroy vital aspects of the UMC for his belief. We are part of a corporate faith precisely because when we disagree, we have accepted that while we can work to change it, we should never work to destroy it.

We sensed clearly the pain caused by the hurt and harm, threats and fears inflicted not only by society in general but most grievously by the church we and they love.”

What threats has the UMC, as a body, leveled? What harm? What pain? Hurt feelings are not harm. The church stating what it believes to be a sin is not harm. It is more fluff. It sounds compelling and convincing, but there is no substance. You tell me how the UMC has actively sought to harm those members who are LGBTQ and I will call them to task, but what the UMC has done is not harm. It has named an action a sin and has said that it will not endorse that sin in marriage. There is not harm in that, there is a church naming what it believes to be sin. Yes, we can and should discuss what is and what is not acceptable to God as holy living, but those saying that a thing is not acceptable to God is not a sin, it is the responsibility of the church, especially a Wesleyan church, to aid those who attend in an understanding of holy living. Don’t think it is a sin? That is ok, work to change it, don’t work to destroy it.

“I am convinced that the evils of apartheid in South Africa would have ended 10 years sooner but for the cowardice in the (Methodist) pulpits” in an analogy with the present status in The United Methodist Church regarding our LGBTQ siblings. (quote attributed to Peter Storey)” 

There are so many false comparisons here that I can not even begin to name them all…but let me start with one. So, any pastor who does not preach full inclusion is a coward? They are not opposing evil? Really? Anyone who believes that sex between two people of the same gender is evil? That is what we are supposed to go with? I am claiming that an action between two people is a sin, and for that I am now evil? Well thank you Pastor, good to know that you are not trying to end all of the rhetoric, but trying to ramp it up. Way to heal the church. Way to provide a faithful witness for me on how to live. I will be sure to say that anyone who does not agree with I think to be sin evil. (Not really, but that is the example) That is not working to change, that is working to destroy. In fact, by claiming the those who do not support full inclusion are ‘evil’ you are actually dangerously close to, and perhaps have, actually crossed the line of the judge not lest you be judged line many like to take out of context. There is a world of difference between saying an action is a sin and that a person is evil.

“The Holy Spirit will have its way. It will use God’s church to change the world, or it will use the world to change the church.” (Again, Peter Storey)

I am not certain what is exactly meant by this phrase to be honest. I know that it makes a good sound bite and is a lot of double speak, but I will share what I took from it. See, seems as if he is implying that if the church does not change it’s stance then God will use the powers of the world to force the church to change. I have got to be honest, I don’t see that happening. Furthermore, if you do not have faith that the Spirit will move to change the church in the way that you think it should be through the process that is available, then you are unwilling to do exactly that thing that you ask theologically conservative folks to do…that is that admit that you might be wrong. Part of the reason for the process that we have is because we recognize that not one of us is infallible. Not one of us is correct all of the time in our views of scripture. We have a democratic process that allows for discussion and debate to come to the conclusions desired by the Holy Spirit. Is it perfect? Not at all, but it is a bit better than casting lots I imagine. Notice that the world does not, or at least should not, play into the decisions of the church. While we need to be concerned with what goes on outside of our faith so that we can engage the world in meaningful and useful ways, we are not under any biblical command to conform to the standard that the world sets. Work to change things if you are so called, don’t work to destroy them.

More to come shortly about the stories coming out of Gather at The River.


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