The news has broken that several conservative church leaders met, via conference call, to discuss many matters. I don’t suspect that any of them will actually read this, but this is my letter to them…will it do any good? Probably not, but it will make me feel better and maybe some who do read it will understand.
I am concerned over those who have chosen to act outside of the discipline. I am also concerned that there has been no consistent action taken. I agree that these actions have caused some damage to the church and it’s witness in the world. Something needs to be addressed and I am glad that you are meeting to try and do just that. I hope that your discussions were fruitful and Spirit led as this is a difficult time and place for the church.
I understand that there will be a smaller working group formed to bring suggestions to the larger group. This is also not a bad idea, and I hope it will prove fruitful. Included in said discussions are to be the idea of withholding funds. I pray this discussion goes something like this: “Should we hold funds back?” “No, it only further damages the church and only serves to hurt those who need those funds most.” As to the discussion of forming two or more denominations I pray the discussion goes like this: “Should we split?” “No, our greatest strength, save for God Himself, is our diversity. By splitting we limit that diversity and we discourage any deviation. That is stagnation and stagnation leads to death.” The third part of the discussion I see some hope in. Please ask and suggest not only a greater enforcement from the bishops, but establishing a set penalty so that it is known to all and can be enforced upon all equally.
When this discussion group is done, I pray that you will meet with those on the other side of the issue at hand. I pray that you will present your ideas clearly, concisely and lovingly. I pray that they are presented as idea and not an ultimatum. I pray that after, the more liberal groups will consider them and follow a process similar to the one that you have begun.
You, those who have met via the conference call, are people we look to to lead. That is a big part of what ‘the connection’ means to us lay people. You are the people we look to model faith to us, to show what a life lived out is to look like. We know this is a difficult, frustrating and confusing time for all of us who claim to be United Methodists. As this is Lent though perhaps the lesson here is that even Christ, on the night he was to be betrayed, welcomed His betrayer to the table. He welcomed him into fellowship and to share a meal. If Christ can welcome the man who would betray Him, can we not welcome those with who we disagree, no matter how fervently we disagree, to the table to work it out? Speaking of the table of communion, aren’t we instructed to work out our issues with our brother before we come? Let’s first be reconciled to our brothers before we try to discern what would be a proper offering so to speak in this difficult time. No matter the outcome and future of the UMC, in this one thing let us follow the teachings of scripture and be reconciled to each other before we make any decisions.
A hopeful layperson