The statement in question can be found here (PDF): Kentucky Conference_ Central Conference Bishops Issue a Statement on the State of the Global UMC and Common World.
This won’t be the most polished piece I have written as it is admittedly a knee jerk reaction to the statement that I read today.
The words on global terrorism and the results of it were welcomed by me. The sheer number of displaced individuals is staggering and is often largely ignored in our section of the world. We do talk about it, but we actually end up doing little about it. It is a grim reminder of what happens outside of our boarders and the impact it has on nations as they are forced to deal with floods of people who need assistance when there is so little assistance to give. I would like to think that their calling on the UN to do something will help, but I have little faith that it will. The calls for divine intervention may indeed be the only real solution.
In recognition of our role as God’s messengers of peace and reconciliation, we present this press release in the hope that we will draw the attention of our denomination to the stark realities of needless suffering and pain in our world as a result of current Global terrorism, unjust political systems and the manipulation of weaker nations by world powers; and to work together as a church to usher in God’s reign of peace, justice and freedom to all.
A good word for all of us.
Of course human sexuality must be mentioned because we are the UMC after all. I have to be honest, compared to the amount of suffering and turmoil that is brought to light in the beginning of their statement, this seems relatively silly. In the first part of their statement, they are making an attempt to bring to light serious issues that we do not, and perhaps can not, fully understand and to beg our prayers and help. In the second part they have to, in essence, politely ask us to be the church.
We are deeply saddened that the Holy Bible, our primary authority for faith and the practice of Christian living, and our Book of Discipline are being grossly ignored by some members and leaders of our Church…
There is more to this section, but I find this to be the most relevant piece. While I have said that I am well aware that there are disagreements on what scripture says on the issue, the UMC’s understanding of what is said is not in doubt. They are right. Many of us are ignoring the scriptures (in many ways, not just in the area of LGBTQ) and we are often ignoring the BoD in our churches. Above and beyond all that however, there is a very tough question that begs to be asked here…how much time, talent, and treasure have we devoted to the LGBTQ lobbying (for and against) that would better be served elsewhere? How much of our efforts have been directed to a singular issue when there are much larger and more pressing issues at hand? Think about it, organizations pay pastors who violate the BoD and their vows to the church in essence rewarding their disobedience, while people have their homes bombed losing what little they had in the first place. To be clear, I do think that there is room for the continuing theological discussions about any number of issues in the church. I do think that there is an often utilized process for changing those things that need and can be changed in our denomination. I also think that the time, money and talent that is invested in the vitriol about the issues can, and should, be better spent working toward solutions for a world drifting into chaos and comfort and provision for the refugees of that chaos. “Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.” (UNHCR report June 18, 2015) That is staggering. Half of that number is children. That is where our focus should be. That is where our efforts should be directed. That and so many other things of global significance. Instead, our thoughts and efforts are distracted by lobbies performing slight of hand saying pay attention to our agenda and give your focus, you time and your treasure to us. We are distracted by disobedience to our rules.
The Bishops in this statement acted in unity. You will notice that all in attendance signed and agreed that this was the way to go forward. They asked for us to notice what was happening and to remain faithful the the scriptures (specifically as understood by the UMC and expressed as matters of faith in the BoD.) I think some of it could be phrased better and been perhaps a bit more tactful, but the message is loud and clear it seems. There are large problems in the world and we should be paying much more attention to them. Our time, talents and treasures should be focused where they are needed the most. Nearly 60 million, and perhaps more by now, are displaced and we can only seem to be able to argue over the same thing over and over again? The Bishops acted as one body in this statement. We should learn from them and do the same. One body moving forward together. One body working toward the global solutions that the world needs. One body focusing their time, talent and treasure on those who need it so desperately.
Our church is a world wide church, our body of United Methodists is a global body. Think of it like this, the GC is the head of our church, for good or for ill. It speaks for the church. If we as individuals were trying to raise our right hand and instead kicked out our left leg, we would seek a doctor, undergo neurological testing, find out what was ailing us and seek treatment. We would recognize that what the head had said, the body did not do and call it an illness. Why is it that we act so very differently as the body of Christ? The head says to go in a particular direction, why is it that we do not at all listen? Why is it that we do not recognize the illness and seek the treatment prescribed? The reality is that our hands and feet are being disobedient to our BoD and often even to our core standards of faith. There is no telling how this has damaged the body but there can be no denying it is damaged. There is no telling how much suffering we could have prevented, but there can be no doubt that our time, talents and treasures could have been much better used in the past, and beg to be better used in the future. We have all called for leadership from our Bishops, and we have received some at long last. A unified group of Bishops calling our attention to problems and begging us to help. A group of Bishops calling for our collective obedience. The head has spoken, all that is left is to see if the hands and feet will finally listen.