Nov 24 2014

Enter the Rainbow: The Root Cause of Schism: "Want of Love"

Have you ever wondered what John Wesley may have thought of proposals to divide the United Methodist Church? Wonder no more:

“It is evil in itself. To separate ourselves from a body of living Christian, with whom we were before united, is a grievous breach of the law of love. It is the nature of love to unite us together; and the greater the love, the stricter the union. And while this continues in its strength, nothing can divide those whom love has united. It is only when our love grows cold, that we can think of separating from our brethren. And this is certainly the case with any who willingly separate from their Christian brethren. The pretenses for separation may be innumerable, but want of love is always the real cause; otherwise they would still hold the unity of the Spirit in the bound of peace. It is therefore contrary to all those commands of God, wherein brotherly love is enjoined: To that of St. Paul, ‘Let brotherly love continue:’ — that of St. John, ‘My beloved children, love one another;’ — and especially to that of our blessed Master, ‘This is my commandment, That ye love on another, as I have loved you’ Yea, ‘By this,’ saith he, ‘shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.’” – John Wesley, Sermon 75, On Schism

Let me just repeat the phrase I highlighted above:

“The pretenses for separation may be innumerable, but want of love is always the real cause.”

In the present case, the pretense for separation is the status and role in the church of people who are gay, specifically as it pertains to marriage and ordination. There’s no way to know, except to speculate, as to what Mr. Wesley would have believed regarding the specific questions on same-sex marriages and the ordination of people who are gay. I’m not intending to engage in such speculation at the moment.

I am intending to elevate our denomination’s conversation to a place of love and true ecclesial connection. Talk of who has permission to marry or not, talk of who might be ordained or not … all is mere pretense. The true root of our division is want of love.

For God’s sake, can we not love one another?

Furthermore, John Wesley understood schism as more than mere formal division. “[Schism] is not a separation from a church … it is a separation in a church,” he preached (emphasis mine). In that sense, the United Methodist Church has already experienced schism, and the true question is not whether to divide or not, but rather whether to unify again or not.

The question becomes one of faith: Do we as a church have sufficient faith in God to become one again? We are already divided. The schism has happened. The question really is: now what?

It seems to me that if we truly loved each other, we’d stick together, even if we fight sometimes. My kids argue with each other, but they stick together, because they love each other. Can the United Methodist Church follow the example my children are setting?

There are a bunch of plans floating around out there; we could see anything from maintenance of the status quo to outright division to some kind of compromise. All will be decided in 2016 at our next General Conference, pending an appeal to the Judicial Council, I suppose.

As we approach General Conference of 2016, maybe the United Methodist Church needs to start with confessing that the schism has already taken place. Maybe by reorienting our denomination to that reality can we ask the questions that really need to be asked:

Are we bold enough to come back together?

Are we faithful enough to trust God with the future?

Do we love one another or not?

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/the-root-cause-of-schism-want-of-love/

Nov 24 2014

everyday theology: Who are You on Social Media?

Several different people have said to me, in the last couple of weeks, that people only present the good side of themselves on social media. Actually, the way it is often said is that “people are always fake on social media; they only share the good stuff.” Whoever says this obviously doesn’t have exactly the […]

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/who-are-you-on-social-media/

Nov 24 2014

Allan R. Bevere: Caption Contest… And the Winner Is…

W.M. James: “Captain, can’t we give him to the Klingons?”

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/caption-contest-and-the-winner-is-22/

Nov 24 2014

Ponder Anew: 10 Reasons to Follow the Liturgical Calendar

Happy New Year. Well, almost. With the arrival of Advent this upcoming week, I’ve been thinking a bit about the benefits of following the Christian year. I’ll admit that this is a tradition I once disregarded with haughty derision. But over the past decade, I’ve grown to see the liturgical year as one of the […]

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/10-reasons-to-follow-the-liturgical-calendar/

Nov 24 2014

sojourner4jesus: men

I’ve seen countless women answering God’s call to be present within the orphan window around the world. Obvious reasons feed into why women are drawn to orphan care. Each has an innate way they nurture, love and care for others. I’ve even been surprised to see some of these qualities come out in myself. What […]

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/men-2/

Nov 24 2014

Jedi Pastor Ken: The Integrity Of My Faith: Thoughts from a Cancer Caregiver

When one is a pastor, people look to you for answers. Those answers often have as much to do with how we act as they have to do with what we say. Thankfully, clergy (and their families) do not live in the same “fishbowl” which just a few decades ago dictated much of what pastors were to do and how they were to behave.

We can look at a generation of pastors that “broke the mold,” so to speak, particularly when it came to church planting pastors. For good or for ill, we have seen pioneers, a raising of a new generation of hip pastors. Forget just wearing jeans and frosting your hair, we added cussing and craft-beer drinking to the list of things which were “acceptable,” well, at least for some. Technology gave us a whole new way to refine our “style.”

Many of us, myself included, took advantage where we could of some of these new freedoms and approaches. Sometimes we experienced the grace of more wise clergy and friends who cautioned us. Sometimes we did not. In many cases, we suffered, our churches suffered, and our witness suffered.

No matter how we might package ourselves, no matter how we might try to position ourselves to advance the Gospel or our “brand,” there is one thing we cannot escape. At some point we are going to come face to face with the reality of the integrity of our faith.

Integrity is important to me. Those who know me know this is a core value in my life, maybe THE core value. But even so, I come up short, “….for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…(Romans 3:23).” I am not able to escape this reality anymore than I can escape my need for sleep or to eat.

So when I speak of an “integrity of my faith,” I am talking about the nuts and bolts, the nitty gritty, knee deep in the muck and mire reality of whether my faith counts for anything at all. We can talk about all the surveys and stats. We can talk about vital congregations, but from my experience and conversations, people looking for God, looking for faith, want to KNOW that you KNOW God and that you KNOW you are KNOWN by God.

The integrity of my faith has been tested in a number of personal challenges. It was tested when I went through testicular cancer, in two battles with clinical depression, and in loss of nearly 50% of my vision to name the more public challenges.

Now, the integrity of my faith is being tested by my wife’s cancer and my role as a husband and father. The integrity of my faith strains at cords of my covenant as a United Methodist pastor and as a caregiver. It is not straining because I lack help or support, heavens NO! I am surrounded by the love and care of my church family and friends and colleagues.

The integrity of my faith is being tested because this is life. What is being tested is the integrity of faith which has been nurtured and has grown since I first responded to God’s prevenient grace back in 1987. What is being tested is the integrity of marriage vows, of my wife’s faith in me (and my children’s faith). And this faith is not, no, cannot be measured by the state of my interior life. The state of my interior life will be measured and made evident by the integrity with which I live.

Father Simon Tugwell writes so appropriately in his book, Prayer in Practice, “…we read that ‘the Word was made flesh”, not that the Word was made mind. Of course his humanity includes a human mind and the Church fought long doctrinal battles over it. But even so the Bible says ‘The Word was made flesh”, and there is an appropriate exteriority about our religion which we should take seriously.” He goes on to state more pointedly, “…we are human beings, and it is our humanity that is redeemed in Jesus Christ. So let us not be afraid to use human language in human ways when we draw close to God.” The integrity of our faith is tested more than just in our declarations of morality. I think it is tested most clearly in the facing of mortality – the recognition of the frailty of ourselves and those around us and those most dear to us.

With each breathe and prayer I make throughout my day, this is the integrity of my faith which is being tested. The truth is, it always was being tested. James even makes clear (I’m still not sure that  joy is how to describe what I’m experiencing right now), “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James1:2-3)” What I can say, is be attending to your faith now! Do you KNOW that you KNOW God? This is the assurance of salvation which we find promised to us (Romans 8:16-17) by St. Paul and passed on through the Methodist Revival. It is a true promise to us, do not wait for it, ask for it, seek it now when your faith is not in a time of testing.

I know whom I have believed in and HE is able to sustain the integrity of my faith. And that I say with all the scars upon my body and my heart.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/11/the-integrity-of-my-faith-thoughts-from-a-cancer-caregiver/

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