Tag Archives: Missouri

Read the news carefully

Reading this morning’s KC Star on-line, two articles had paragraphs that need careful reading. Both caught my attention by the words that could easily be skipped yet need careful reading.

First, in the news article, “Where’s Gov. Greitens? Not with Trump this visit” (March 15, 2018, p.4), about one third the way down, after explaining that Greitens did not greet President Trump in St. Louis like he did on the other two Missouri stops, came two paragraphs:

“Trump instead was welcomed by Attorney General Josh Hawley, the state’s top law enforcement official and the Republican front runner to challenge U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in the fall.”

This paragraph is a simple statement of the situation as a news report is designed to be, with the exception of one word “instead.”

That word becomes loaded with meaning when a news report last week stated that Trump asked certain state Republicans not be included—names not included.

In that previous news report, the comment was included that Hawley had not been invited to greet the president. The paragraph in today’s article implies that Hawley was invited to greet the President.

Hmmm. I would like a clarification, at least of when Hawley was included in the meet and greet.

The article continues with the next paragraph that is a quote from Trump:

“The state of Missouri was very good to me, I’ll tell you,” Trump said during a visit to Boeing. “And Josh, I think, is doing a fantastic job. I can tell you that. Just met him at the plane.”

Close reading of the President’s quote causes more concern for me as a reader.

First, the President said the state of Missouri was very good to me. The historic records can prove just how good when looking at the election results.

By going to the Secretary of State’s official website for the general election results of November 8, 2016 the results are posted:

Republican Trump/Pence took 56.772% or 1,594,511 votes

Democrat Clinton/Kaine took 38.135% or 1,071,068 votes

Libertarian Johnson/Weld took 3.466% or 97,359 votes

Additionally there were 45,667 votes cast for a total of 2,808,605 votes cast.

Yes, by the numbers, Missouri was good to Trump during the election.

But on with the President’s quote:

“And Josh, I think, is doing a fantastic job. I can tell you that. Just met him at the plane.”

Those short sentences are worth reflection. Look at the sentences in reverse order.

Trump just met him at the plane. Just? At? How much knowledge can one gain in that moment of meeting.

The middle sentence, “I can tell you that”, is clear enough as Trump is being quoted. But, look again at that first brief statement:

“And Josh, I think, is doing a fantastic job.” Even Trump’s own statement creates questions. He just met him. He thinks Hawley is doing a good job. But the qualifier ‘fantastic’ is Trump’s descriptor for what he thinks is the job Hawley is doing.

Where are the facts? Two small paragraphs in the first third of a news article is loaded with implicating statements. The reader has a responsibility to reflect on these words.

Journalism is reporting the news based on various elements such as timeliness, significance, proximity, prominence (i.e. name recognition) and human interest (as identified at http://www.pbs.org/now/classroom/lessonplan-05.html).

The active reader needs to be aware of these elements and to consider them as filters as to how a story is reported. Knowing this, the two paragraphs in this article are just part of the story, but need careful reflection by Missourians.

The second KC Star March 15, article to read carefully is in the Opinion section, “GOP’s Hawley launches campaign we don’t need” by Melinda Henneberger. Remember, this is an opinion or editorial.

Henneberger has an opinion, but she does develop that opinion with facts concerning candidate education and historical quotes. Yet, buried in the middle of the article is a paragraph for careful reading and reflection:

“Yet both there [out East] and here in the Midwest, where I grew up, blue and red bubbles are harder to penetrate because any news we don’t want to hear, we increasingly choose not to hear.”

Regardless of one’s political preference, referred to as ‘blue and red bubbles’, the message in Henneberger’s editorial is that we, the people, are making the conscious decision of what to hear or not to hear.

In casual conversations, opinions are voiced easily. The concern is how solid is one’s opinion based on facts, not hear say.

Read carefully.

Look for concrete support in an article.

Look beyond the headline grabbing attention.

Look at what is not being said.

Read carefully.

Do not just scan the headlines.

Take time to read the full story whether in print or on-line.

If you have questions, ask or look for answers.

Hennenberger’s article is an opinion, but read it carefully. Make the choice to know the facts. Do not choose to you do not want to hear.

The KC Star’s front page includes the teaser headline, but choose to ‘hear’ the story and turn to page 4. The headline develops into more than a story on Greitens non-appearance, but also a story about an election and the President’s knowledge.

Then choose to read on. Read others’ opinions and reflect.

Choose to read carefully.

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Pharisee or Disciple

given on Sunday, October 16, 2016

Opening scripture: Matthew 25:34-36, 44-46 [NLT]

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ . . .

. . . 44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Scripture connection: Luke 22:37-42 [NLT]

37 As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table.[a] 38 His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! 40 Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? 41 So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.

42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[b] but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Plus: I Timothy 4:11-13 [NLT]

11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.

Bishop Bob Farr’s statement:

“Part of the burden of becoming Bishop is learning of other people’s burdens. Watching the pain of our black and brown brothers and sisters has become too much for me to bear. Witnessing our first responders face increased risk due to escalating tensions in many of our neighborhoods has weighed heavily upon me. I have often felt helpless, not knowing what I should do, but that isn’t true. I follow a God who is always on the side of those who are hurting. It is not enough to be non-racist. That is far too passive. As white people who follow Jesus Christ, we are called to be anti-racist. We are people of action and of spirit. As Methodists we are called to both social and personal holiness. We must be wary of what our founder, John Wesley called quietism. Faith without works, he said, was the “the grand pest of Christianity.”

Closing scripture: Matthew 25:40 [NLT]

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!



One more political ad on television and I may just snap. I listen to the vicious accusations and slamming of one candidate against another and I groan. How can our country hope to reclaim a sense of decency in such a poisonous campaign—not just nationally but also at the state level!

This week the first letter from Bishop Farr arrived in the mail. Missouri has been a focal point for much of the unrest these past two years and now the political arena is creating so much turmoil, too, that it quickly tarnishes the idealism into which baby boomers were born. The decades since the 1950’s have marched on, and the idealism has turned into cynicism.

No, this is not a political commentary; this is a Christian commentary. As Christians we are tasked to serve one another in all the ways we can. Yet, as Bishop Farr mentions in his letter, it is difficult to understand all the injustices that occur because we do not travel in the shoes of others. We travel in our own shoes.

Rev. Cody Collier admonished the newest ordained elders and deacons as well as all church members to walk the walk of Jesus Christ. As disciples, we are to step out of our churches, out of our comfort level, and walk out into the streets to serve. Walk the walk with others, and we will find ways to serve and to introduce others to God.

Today’s scripture from Matthew 25 is so familiar. Many of the verses are memorized and echo in our minds when we hear just a small piece of the verses:

35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’


Yet, today, do we hear these verses and think we have indeed done all that we can? Or do we hear these verses and cringe knowing we have failed to follow God’s words?

The neighborhoods in which we live are not the same as the ones we knew 10, 25, even 50 years ago. The neighborhoods evolved into unfamiliar communities and we feel like outsiders. The communities no longer look like those etched into our long-term memory. And the memories are so entrenched they are like concrete, and we refuse to see that even those memories are showing wear and tear.

When Jesus was walking the paths in ancient Israel, he did not care what others were thinking about him. He cared what was happening to others. He did not dwell on the fact that he exiled himself from his own hometown; he kept walking, teaching, healing, and preaching.

Scripture repeatedly shares the stories of Jesus being harassed by the Pharisees. They were accustomed to being in charge and their goals were to preserve the status quo. The Pharisees were accustomed to a certain lifestyle, a certain pattern of life in the community, and Jesus was challenging everything they knew. When this young whipper-snapper challenged them, they bristled and defended what they knew.

Jesus stood firm. He refused to be quieted. He refused to follow the legalistic style of religion the Pharisees were preserving. He saw someone sick, and he healed them—even if it was Sabbath. He heard the plea of friends begging that a daughter or brother be healed or returned from death.

Jesus demonstrated how to live a God-centered life regardless of the ancient traditions of the Jewish Pharisees. Jesus called the apostles to follow him in his shoes/sandals and teach others to love one another. The evolution of today’s Christian faith was not easy. It was a life-and-death battle to see that the newest disciples could transform an imperfect world through one simple commandment: Love God above all else, and love one another as you want to be loved.

Today’s church is at risk of being as legalistic as the ancient Jewish religion. The Pharisees could not hear God because they were so focused on preserving the culture in which they had been trained. This was the very tribe, the very profession, and the very way it always had been. Yet, the ancient world was filled with challenges just like today’s world.

The drive to make fortunes in the region around the Mediterranean Coast brought many cultures together as land trade routes connected to marine trade. The same drive to financial success challenges us. The fallout often turns into employment challenges, economic stress, challenges of business ethics, and so much more.

Mix the economic challenges with political power and the problems of Biblical times seems so much like to today’s global culture. The Pharisees were doing everything they could to preserve the social and political culture to which they were accustomed. The message that Jesus was sharing shook the very foundations of their world, so they fought to keep things as they were—even to the point of trying to get rid of Jesus.

Yet, Jesus was teaching a new way. Jesus was showing that as long as one does all that one can to love one another, all the other evils in the world can be avoided. Jesus and his disciples were flexible. The disciples had to step outside of the cultural box in which they were raised and discover that life loving one another could create the kingdom of God the Pharisees kept just out of reach.

Today we must decide whether we are Pharisees or whether we are disciples. We must take an honest evaluation of our personal mindset and ask if we are a Pharisee or whether we are a disciple. Do we do all that we can to reach out to others in the community that no longer looks like the one in our memories? Do we see ways that we can help those in the community or do we just want to keep things like they have been for decades?

When Paul wrote his letters to Timothy, he had to guide this young disciple through the personal experiences he had following Jesus’ example while sitting in a Roman prison. He could not be present in Timothy’s mission field to guide him. So when we read the books Paul wrote to Timothy, we need to see if we are going to be Pharisees or whether we will follow Timothy in an effort to keep Jesus’ work alive even two thousand years later.

Are we Pharisees or are we disciples of Jesus Christ? Be honest. What have you done to see that God is alive in this community just as much today as it was when you were born? You have been active, but what can you do or what can you support being done so that the newer community members are shown God’s love?

Did Jesus ever quit? Did Paul ever quit? Even the ancient Jewish faithful never quit. The Bible is filled with stories of how God taught his disciples to love one another. The Bible teaches us that in the face of every kind of adversity, God is beside us and will be with us and for us as long as we are disciples and not the rigid Pharisees who could not accept Jesus as the Son of God.

As we step forward with our efforts to do all we can for the kids in the community and as we step up to vote, we do so with prayer and with the fervor of the earliest disciples. We must try to do whatever we can, even if we fail, to demonstrate to those in our community God’s love for each and every one. We must pray for our neighbors, for our leaders, and for each other as we challenge ourselves to be disciples.

As we move into the holiday season, we need to consider what we can give to God. Remember, whenever we feed someone who is hungry, clothe someone who is naked, provide a drink for someone who is thirsty, to listen to someone who is lonely, and more, then we are Being God’s disciples.

Do not be a Pharisee who refuses to see the message Jesus shared. Do not be one who turns to God only to say:

‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

Even disciples may not make the best decision every time, but the disciples are willing to take a risk and try to do whatever they can. If a ministry no longer is working, then stop and move on. Disciples moved on from one location to another when the message was ignored. We must be disciples willing to risk doing whatever we can for all we can

Closing prayer:

Dear God almighty,

For centuries your tried to teach your faithful to follow you.

You gave them opportunities to serve as good stewards,

and to follow the Ten Commandments.

Yet, even the Pharisees chosen to preserve the laws

and to lead the community in worship,

did not recognize you as Jesus Christ, the son of Man.

Accept our prayers to stay disciples of Jesus

and to find ways to share your story with others.

Guide us to be your disciples through the power

of the Holy Spirit as we step forward in ministry.

May we discover your kingdom of Heaven

while serving one another in love,

right now, right here in our own community.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen!




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Mission: Connecting to or via God

given on Sunday, September 21, 2014

MISSION: Connecting to or via God?

When school started and I was looking at all the brand new supplies that were filling the store shelves, I felt that surge of excitement I have known my entire life. The store shelves are now filled with Halloween and the school supplies are moved to the clearance aisles, and yet the call for school supplies continues as the Festival of Sharing approaches, scheduled for October 18.

Attending the festival is not the key point, today; rather the point is mission. Mission, as a word, does not cause everybody to suddenly jump to attention and feel a call to become a missionary, but mission is a powerful word. Mission has a way of transforming an idea into an action or a movement that propels that idea to new levels of importance. Mission can connect individuals into an awesome force that grows beyond the initial expectations.

No business, no organization, not even an individual moves forward without a mission. For individuals a mission connects a goal, a lifestyle, and a purpose all together to define that person’s journey in life. In business, developing and refining the mission of the company creates a unified work force that keeps the business thriving and profitable. For organizations, mission defines the purpose but also unifies the members in the efforts support a cause, to spread ideas or to complete projects. Mission is vision, mission is action, and mission is key to Christianity, too.

God’s vision for this world was a garden filled with anything all living things, include the humans, could possibly need. The vision drives the decisions required to create and maintain the vision. God’s vision was challenged by the free will of his own creation. Humans placed themselves into a struggle to stay connected to God. A mission developed.

Does mission connect us to God or does mission connect us via God? What is a church’s mission? Wasn’t Jesus very explicit when he told the Apostles to go and make disciples? Haven’t we all agreed to accept that mission when we accepted Christ as savior and joined a church? Are we living our lives with a mission that connects our daily actions with God in one way or another?

The Festival of Sharing is one means of serving God. Participating is an option, not a requirement, that works to make sure that all the needs of people are met just when it seems impossible for them to manage. The Office of Creative Ministries has the mission identified and has worked for years hosting the Festival of Sharing for the Missouri Conference, but the Festival of Sharing is an ecumenical event. It brings together not only the efforts of United Methodists, but also other denominations as an internet search shows Presbyterians and Unitarians join in the efforts.

The outreach of missions such as the Festival of Sharing is vital for the well being of humans in crisis. The basic needs of food, clothing and shelter must be met before there is any way to move forward to even the next level of functioning. Look at the different Missouri packs:

  • Baby Bundle Pack
  • Family Food Pack
  • Paper Products Pack
  • Personal Hygiene Pack
  • Reading & Writing Pack
  • Student Dental Pack
  • Backpacks of Love
  • Youth Personal Care Pack


Just in Missouri, meeting a person or a family’s basic needs can be so overwhelming there is nothing left to manage any of the needs represented in these various packs. The struggle is overwhelming, so any effort made to meet the basic needs is serving as God’s hands.

The scripture from Matthew gives us the answer to what can we do:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Each of the packs meets a need. Study what is included in those packs and you can see how they answer God’s request. Behind each of the packs, comes a need that cannot be met by that person due to the circumstances in which he/she may be found.

Even when the funds were totaled up from the fair sales, knowing that 30% was going into a specific community need fund, makes the efforts of preparing the meat, chopping onions, baking pies, serving the food, and even cleaning up after the last guest worth every moment. This is just one example of how a mission connects us to God—or does God use us to connect others to God via our mission efforts?

Every time a decision is made personally or as a church to do something to meet the needs of others is one more mission identified. If the Samaritan Center puts out a call for specific goods or for donations to meet the needs of the hungry, any decision the church makes to answer such a call is mission completed.

Mission is putting the vision into action. Jesus calls us to action over and over. Sometimes it is a friend calling with news of an unwanted diagnosis. Maybe an email pops up with a request for prayers. Even junk mail is full of calls for help in one way or another. Are these calls to be ignored or do you act? Each time you act, you are in mission. Each time you make a donation or step up to volunteer or you spend time listening and praying for someone’s need, you are in mission.

Does it feel like you have made a difference? Those listening as Jesus talked did not feel what they did was all that significant, but Jesus heard the people and he answered their question:

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[c] you were doing it to me!’

Sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? Others may notice what you do for others, but for you it is part of your nature, your Christian nature.

The Festival of Sharing is in one month; are you ready? What have you, or what have we done to answer the call to mission? During the next few Sundays, let’s work together and decide what to give. Maybe it is one specific kit like the school kit, or maybe you take a flier and put together your own choice of kits, or maybe you decide to make a cash donation either to the kits or to one of the special missions. Maybe as a church, you decide to make a donation. Maybe you choose to attend the festival and participate in making the bags of rice or bidding on the quilts or loading the trucks.

Mission is meeting the needs of others in one way or another. Mission is serving as God’s ambassador in as many ways as possible to share God with as many as possible whenever or wherever we can. Being in mission connects us to God, but it also connects others via God.

Closing prayer

Dear God of all,

Help us hear the cry of those in need.

Help us find ways to serve others.

Give us the tools to serve.

Teach us to serve one another.

And, as we join together in mission,

Let us discover the joy of giving.

Let us connect with one another

Both here, in the state, and around the world.

Let our mission be your mission

Now and forever.


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Call to Action: What would John Wesley do?

given on Sunday, April 29, 2012

Special introduction:  This blog entry is more of a reflection and sharing of Missouri’s UMC Bishop testimony and the Call to Action which is currently under review at the denomination’s General Conference.  This is not a comfortable discussion, but probably necessary in view of the state of the United Methodist church today.  These thoughts are based on several readings done this week from the Bishop’s blog, from the UM Reporter, the Call to Action website, etc.  Hopefully this will keep readers in prayer for the structure of our church.


Scriptural connection:

Bishop Schnase’s Fruitful Practices guide clergy and laity to understand the elements of a vital congregation.  They are foundational pieces.  The Call to Action is a ‘polity’ issue that is hard to understand.  The UMC has several layers of leadership and most members are unaware of the roles and responsibilities of the leadership.  The Bishop references all arguments directly to the Bible.  Today’s reading is one related to the Call to Action.  Hear the words and pray for our church:

[The verses are related to the Bible Study over the Call to Action.  Connect them while reading through the scriptures.]

1.  A call to make disciples for the transformation of the world

  • I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  –Philippians 3:12

2.  A call for spiritual renewal

  • I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God.  –Romans 12:1-2

3.  A call for more turnaround spiritual leaders

  • Perhaps you have come to [this position] for just such a time as this.  –Esther 4:14

4.  A call to grow more vital congregations

  • That day about three thousand persons were added.  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done . . . All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.  Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, the broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts; praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.  And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.  –Acts 2:41-47

5.  A call for transformative change

  • The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.  –Luke 4:18

6.  A call for bold leadership to transform the world

  • The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

 –Ephesians 4:11-12

7.  A call to the General Conference for transformational changes

  • As [God] has sent me, so I send you.  –John 20:21

The sermon/reflection:

For the past four years, I have become very aware of the “polity” of the United Methodist Church.  This topic is not an easy one and certainly does not lend itself to casual conversation or motivation to do what the latest mailing encourages us to do.  I can only wonder what John Wesley would think about the many levels of administration the church currently has.

How can the polity of our denomination have anything to do with the commission!  Remember, we are called to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.  The polity is the organizational structure of the denomination.  Everything is covered in the Book of Discipline.  This is not what Wesley envisioned for the church.  He was believed doing was ministry, and having all this organizational structure would be seen as a handicap in doing the Lord’s work.

Frustrations over the organization do not help us move forward in our own ministry either.  The Call to Action resulted from a thorough evaluation of the entire denomination done by an outside group (can’t find the name).  After reading through the blog, 30 Days of Preparation by Bishop Schnase, I realized that the Call to Action is about carrying out the Great Commission.

The Bishop is passionate about his faith and how important that his commission is.  In the blog, on Day 16, the Bishop shares his personal testimony.  It is so key to understanding his passion for God, but also for the passion he has for the denomination.  Therefore, I invite you to listen to his testimony and ask yourself what Wesley would say.

         I would not be a Christian today if it were not for The United Methodist Church.

         That’s a rather bold statement. I’ve only recently come to realize this as I reflect on the formative events of my early discipleship. If not for the particular approach to theology and practice expressed in The United Methodist Church, I would likely have followed a path of rejecting faith.

         I remember an experience that followed the 1972 earthquake in Nicaragua that killed more than 5,000. I was 15 years old, and several of my friends were active in a charismatic Christian house group. They were reading The Late Great Planet Earth about signs of the end times. I saw an adult leader clap her hands and praise God for the earthquake because it was a sign that we were one step closer to the end! I was outraged. I was so furious about “Christianity” that I told my pastor I could no longer be a Christian if that’s what Christians believe. He patiently listened and offered alternative views of those obscure apocalyptic passages. He spoke of God’s grace and talked about what our church was doing for the people of Nicaragua and how I could help. If the only expression of Christianity open to me at that age had been that group of friends, I would not be a Christian today.

         That was one of several experiences that opened the door to the spiritual life when other doors closed to me. My girlfriend was active in a fundamentalist Baptist church. The role of women and the attitude toward women that she accepted offended my common sense even before it contradicted my biblical understanding. At our United Methodist church, women chaired committees and taught from the pulpit, and I could not imagine belonging to a community that excluded women. Later, a classmate committed suicide. Hundreds of students attended the funeral in a fundamentalist church where the pastor spoke about how we should all feel happy because Martin was in a better place. He told us not to cry, because God has a reason for everything he does. He suggested that Martin had done things that caused God to do this. The image of a punitive God that causes suffering and the inability of the pastor to address the real grief in the room made me cringe. The experience sent me back to my pastor. If this was Christianity, I wanted no part of it. A month later, Martin’s father killed himself.

         There were branches of the Christian family that surrounded me as a teenager that were militantly anti-science and anti-intellectual, and that forced people to choose between the Bible and evolution as if these were fundamentally incompatible. I could not have followed Christ if it meant giving up my intellectual curiosity.

         There were branches that were perfunctory in their liturgy, void of music and song, and entirely intellectual in their approaches, and the emptiness left me cold. Some of my friends were strict Nazarenes, and they could not go to movies, watch TV, or attend plays. Their isolation from society would not reach me.

         There were denominational families that prohibited birth control, and these made no sense to me. And there were churches that railed against gays and lesbians in hateful and hurtful ways, and I could not belong to a community like that.

         There are many theological disagreements and clashing perspectives in The United Methodist Church about homosexuality, but I’m glad to belong to a church that does not avoid the hard conversations and the complex issues. Sincere people of faith strongly disagree, but I’m glad we say that homosexuals are people of sacred worth, loved by God like every person on earth.

         United Methodism’s theology of grace, varieties of worship, emphasis on inner holiness and social witness, global vision, hymnody, our ability to hold together head and heart, our respect for women and men, our openness to people of all nations and ethnicities, our vision to transform the world through audacious projects like Imagine No Malaria—these form an expression of Christianity, a way of following Jesus, that can reach people that no other faith expression is able to reach. I’m not saying our approach is better than all the others; I’m merely suggesting that people respond to the truth of Christ through our expression of faith who cannot respond to other expressions. This form of faith and practice reached me, and without The United Methodist Church I suspect I would never have become a Christian.

         The goal of the Call to Action is not to save the denomination or the institutions of the church. I’m offended by people who accuse me and others involved in this work of merely working for institutional survival. I have poured thirty years into the work of ministry in Christ’s name, and I have not done this to maintain an institution.

         The reason I pour myself into the ministry and into leading the church comes from a deep-rooted place inside. It is grounded in the grace I have experienced, an initiating love that sought and found me through countless people who brought me God’s unconditional love. This desire to share God’s grace is God-given and sacred.

         From the depths of my soul, I desire for people to love and be loved, to experience a sense of purpose from serving others, and to believe that their lives matter. I want people to feel immersed in community, surrounded and sustained. I genuinely desire for them to discover the inner life, and to learn to ease the suffering that comes with empty strivings. I want them to discover that love is the better way, and that the ultimate expression of love can be discovered in Christ. The spiritual life changes us, and through us God’s Spirit changes the lives of those around us. Patterns of violence and injustice can be interrupted, loneliness can be overcome and suffering relieved, and there is a depth to life that is sacred and worthy of cultivation.

         Methodism began as a way of life, and this way of life, deep-rooted in our theology and practice, is worthy of fostering, not for our sake, but for the love of God in Christ. There are people who can receive this love in the form we offer it who otherwise would never be able to do so.

As members we all are the United Methodist Church.  As those attending the services each week, we are reminded by the Bishop’s personal story that our faith is meant to be shared, that the denomination is a tool to carry out the Great Commission, and the frustrations we have with the polity of the church can be challenged and a change can be made.

We do not know the outcome of the votes from General Conference yet as there is still one more week of the meeting.  We must wait for news, but in the meantime consider what Wesley would tell us to do.  We are to pray.  Pray as you do, but for this week and again as we prepare for Annual Conference in June, pray for our denomination itself.  Pray that God leads us to the best solution possible.  Pray that our church moves forward accepting the changes needed to complete the commission we have been given.  And, do what Wesley would do—remain with his small group, read the Bible, pray, and do all that you can do for all those you can in any way that you can.

Dear Holy Father, Son and the Holy Spirit,

         Our church is facing tough decisions.

         Please be with our leaders as they struggle to reach common ground.

         Keep first and foremost in their mind Christ’s final words to his disciples.

         As the General Conference closes, keep all delegates safe as they return.

         As the delegates return, let them come home united in the mission.

         Keep the delegates focused on making disciples and the ministries.

         When Annual Conferences begin their meetings around this globe,

         guide the leaders in sharing the news and explaining any decisions.

         Equip the leaders and the Annual Conference delegates with grace

         so that the faithful can truly bring disciples to Christ

         and transform the world.         –Amen


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