Here is what it is like to be at the General Conference 2016 so far. Imagine you are going to a family reunion. You pack your bags and include a fun game of badminton in your luggage. You did not know the rules of badminton but you spent some time…
The Good, Fast, Cheap triangle looks like this:
You can only pick 2
Everyone at the General Conference (GC) desires it to be good, fast and cheap. The fact of the matte…
I am convinced that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life as John 14 says. My more progressive friends hesitate around this scripture while my more conservative friends embrace this scripture. The interesting thing is that both sides hesitate/embrace for the same reason – the exclusive claims that are attached to it. Progressives are not sure if Jesus is the only way, while conservatives are convinced he is. One side is apprehensive to exclusivity while the other side has it as an article of faith.
I would like to submit that the question needs to be not if Jesus is the way, but what exactly is the way of Jesus?
In his book, A New Christianity, Brian McLaren addresses this question:
“If you want to know what God is like,” Jesus says, “look at me, my life, my way, my deeds, my character.” And what has that character been? One of exclusion, rejection, constriction, elitism, favoritism, and condemnation? Of course not! Jesus’ way has been compassion, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion, and love from beginning to end— whether with a visiting-by-night Pharisee, a Samaritan woman, a paralyzed man, a woman caught in adultery, or a man born blind.
It seems to me the Way of Jesus is the way of radical compassion and inclusion. And this radical inclusion leads us to Christ which in turn leads us to God. It is a cycle. Here is what I mean:
But here is the paradox that is often overlooked: the way of radical inclusion is the way of exclusion. The way of radical inclusion means that we exclude from our lives our own prejudices, judgments, condemnations, egos and self righteousness.
So my friends if we think that Christianity is exclusive, you may be correct. However, it is never exclusive of others. Christianity is the way of life that works to include others in a way that requires us to exclude our egos. This in part is what is meant by the need to die to ourselves so that Christ can live in us. When we exclude our own pride and ego and allow Christ to live in us, we find that way of Christ to be the way of radical and sometimes uncomfortable inclusion of the other.
Christ died for the world. Not for some select few or for the chosen ones. Christ died for the entire world. You cannot get more radically inclusive than that.
And yet in order to die for the sake of the whole world, Jesus had to exclude from his own ministry fear, hate, judgement and pride. He says in the garden prior to his arrest, “not my will but thine.”
Jesus is the way the truth and the life. The call for us today is are we willing to embrace the way of Jesus so that we may see the truth of his life?
Recently I heard a devotional given by Rev. Dr. Tim Bruster (who is up for election for Judicial Council of the UMC). Rev. Bruster shared the story from 2 Kings 20:1-21 and how it relates to the UMC. For those of us who have not memorized the story, here is the key part Dr. Bruster shared:
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord: Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’
Dr. Bruster pointed out that Hezekiah was a king who was told that his actions and the way he was leading was going to result in some very bad news for his sons. However, this news did not provoke Hezekiah to repent and change his ways. His response to hearing this word was, “this is a good word that you have spoken.” It is good that those closest to him will experience shame and punishment? Why?
Hezekiah may have thought this was good news because this news was about his sons and not about himself. Perhaps we could read his response, “Oh that sounds bad…. Wait did you say this was going to happen to me? Oh, no? My sons? Whew! That was close. I thought you were going condemn my actions, but you only are saying my boys will be affected. That was close, I really dodged a bullet there.”
It might have been good news for Hezekiah, but his son’s may have a different opinion…
Of all the voting delegates of General Conference of the UMC, only 7% of them are “young people.” The gifted and talented Abigail Parker Herrera wrote: “Only 7% of the 864 seated delegates will be young people. Less than 30 people under the age of 35 from the Central Conferences and only 33 people under 30 from the United States will be on the floor making decisions. Almost half of these young people are women. A mere 6 of them are clergy.”
With these sorts of numbers I wonder if the other 93% of delegates may fall victim to the universal sin of shortsightedness? May it remind us all that our perspective is influenced depending on if we have to live with for 10 or 50 years.
With only a few young people among the 2016 General Conference delegates, the Rev. Jason Valendy prays that the remaining 93 percent of delegates avoid King Hezekiah’s mistake of short-sightedness in their decisions.
The Rev. Jason Valendy concludes his three-part series with a look at bipartisan and transpartisan transactions, and what they could mean for General Conference
In the second of his three-part series, the Rev. Jason Valendy looks at how progressives tend to get stuck in the “disorder” box.
In case you missed the first two posts of this series, here is a quick recap:
A Richard Rohr metaphor of three boxes – order, disorder and reorder. Conservatives tend to get stuck in order, while progressives tend to get stuck in disorder. The Christian life is to include and transcend the previous ways of being. The metaphor builds by implying the goal is to move away from order and disorder into the realm of reorder. And while the far right and left in the UMC may be stuck in their boxes, the rest of us are seeking the way of reorder. But what does reorder look like in the UMC?
So let’s shift gears just a moment. Here is a quick little image outlining the difference between bipartisan and transpartisan:
First of all you may be familiar with the word, bipartisan but maybe not as much with transpartisan. From the Wiki:
Transpartisanship represents an emerging field in political thought distinct from bipartisanship, which aims to negotiate between “right” and “left,” resulting in a dualistic perspective, and nonpartisanship, which tends to avoid political affiliation altogether. Rather, transpartisanship acknowledges the validity of truths across a range of political perspectives and seeks to synthesize them into an inclusive, pragmatic container beyond typical political dualities.
The UMC has a chance to reorder our denomination. We have a chance to reorder away from the bipartisanism of Order vs. Disorder. We have a chance to stop name calling and demonizing. We have a chance to reorder our denomination around Love rather than around the truth that individuals embrace.
We think that we cannot overcome the split between those trapped in the Order and those trapped in Disorder around the issue of homosexuality. We think this is the divisive issue of our day that will tear the church apart. I am not sure why we are allowing this issue to have so much power over us. We did not split over abortion. We did not split over the ordination of women. We did not split over Biblical inerrancy, alcohol, gambling, climate change, capital punishment, the use of war, divestment or divorce. When these issues present(ed) themselves we were able to reorder around something larger than the presenting issue. We reordered our Church around the Love of Christ.
Can General Conference 2016 get out of the boxes of order and disorder so that we can reorder the common ministry and mission we all share? Can conservatives step out of the box of order so to not be rigid and punitive? Can progressives step out of the box of disorder so to not be zero-sum in thought? Are we courageous enough to stay in dialogue and communion with those we disagree with? Can we be a denomination that liberates one another from the tyranny of order and disorder?
I do so pray.
In a previous post, I shared about a metaphor Richard Rohr shares about spiritual formation. He asks us to imagine there are three boxes, “order”, “disorder” and “reorder”. Fr. Rohr believes that conservatives tend to get stuck in the “order” box. I sh…
In this first of a three-part series, the Rev. Jason Valendy looks at how order, disorder and reorder characterize various United Methodist movements