As is often written about in matters pertaining to the UMC, I shall, yet again, talk about the same sex marriage/ordination issue. I don’t want to argue the points here or even really separate progressive from conservative or left from right. I want to make some statements about and offer some suggestions to, us all. Here goes…
First, please take some time to understand the position and identity of the ones you disagree with. Not the broad talking points everyone is using, no the person who is behind the position. The fact is that whether we want to admit it or not, we bring one thing to every discussion we enter into…us. We bring our life, the things we have seen, heard, felt etc. Get to know the person behind the position. It does wonders to understand the position itself. As to the position, don’t gloss over the same tired argument that you have heard before, but examine it. Then examine it again. Maybe even a third time. Mull it over, compare it to yours. Continue to do so. Practice arguing the point of those who disagree with you. When you try to argue a point different than yours, you will be surprised how much you learn about both.
Secondly, be careful little mouths what you say. Stop accusing people of being ‘unchristian’. Last I checked, judging that was above all of our pay grades. Please stop using phrases like ‘I choose love over the law’. It only implies that the one you disagree with does not love. Both of these things, as examples of many others, only make the person you disagree with defensive and suddenly turns a disagreement into a fight. I am not a biblical scholar, but it seems to me that the continual calls for unity in the scriptures have more to do with not fighting with each other, and less to do with all of us being cookie cutter drones who do not think for ourselves. I thank God daily that we are different. That is the blessing and occasional curse of free will. Think before you speak (or in this case type). What is the unintended consequence of what I am about to put out there. Yes, we will sometimes offend each other and sometimes it may even be necessary, but don’t do it accidentally. If you do, drop everything and make it right with your brother before continuing.
Third, let us take the bold step and (GASP) assume the best of each other. Let’s assume that we love God, we love Christ, and we love people. Really, I mean it. Yeah, that about sums that up.
Fourth, we need to follow the vows we have made. If we have pledged money, we need to do all in our power to fulfill that pledge. If you are a pastor, you need to follow and uphold the book of discipline as you said you would. If you are laity that is a member of the church then you need to support your church with your gifts, talents, prayers, and service. This is not because we agree with everything the local church, or the world wide church is doing or saying, it is because our yes should be yes and our no be no so to speak. Much of this argument has to do with same sex marriage and the like. We have no business arguing over marriage, any marriage, until we all uphold the vows we have already taken. Marriage is a vow to each other and a covenant before God. Church membership (the bride of Christ) is much the same. Honor the vows you made first and foremost. Then move forward with the conversation. If you can not honor the vows you took, it is difficult for me to believe that the conversation is genuine.
Five, think big picture. I am not saying to ignore single issues here, but I am saying that we need a big picture lens to look through. The whole of scripture, not just a few verses cherry picked here and there. The whole of humanity, not just the group you identify with most. The whole identity of Christ, not just the fluffy parts. The whole of the God who is, not the God we want. Make an honest and informed decision about whether or not any issue is the one thing that you are willing to stake your faith on. Examine it, question it and honestly decide if that is the one thing that your faith can be staked on. If it is not the Father, Son and Holy spirit, go back and try again.
Six…this is a tough one. I do not desire to see the church split in any way shape or form. I passionately believe that we can emerge from this stronger than we were before. To do this, we have to quit threatening to take our toys and leave. Stop withholding money as a way to blackmail. If you are going to leave, then leave. Please understand that I don’t want you to, don’t think it is a good idea, and will even do whatever I can to convince you to stay, but you have a choice. That is an honest choice and I will respect it, even if I disagree. What you shouldn’t do is say that you are a part of the UMC, any church or any organization really, and then withhold support of it because you do not get your way. It reminds me of a 4 year old holding their breath in protest actually.
This fight has been going on longer than I have been alive and in that time it has become what defines us as a church and as Christians. That is a tactic employed by lobbyists and politicians to push their agenda. We need to be better than this. We can not afford, in a world that so desperately needs the hope, afford to be single issue Christians. For as long as this has been going on, I can not help but think that the problem is no longer that we disagree but it has instead become how we do it.