Archive for July, 2018

A Weed in the United Methodist Church

July 25, 2018

I was on my hands and knees in the cool morning hours a week ago pulling weeds out of the rock landscaping we have in front of our home. I do not know what kind of weeds they are, someone told me they call it Creeping Charlie, though looking at pictures I really do not think that is what it is. It may be Spurge. Anyway, I was pulling weeds, and though it is not a favorite pastime of mine, these weeds were pretty easily uprooted. While the tap root is long and can run deep, it is thin and brittle. The plant creeps along the ground, or in our case the rocks, and sets down roots, the roots are shallow, and while the plant is very invasive, unsightly, and annoying, it is easily uprooted because of its lack of depth.

It was the first thing that came to mind as I was reading the recently released United Methodist Church Commission on a Way Forward’s Report to General Conference. Let me qualify that statement. The image of the invasive weed in my rock bed was not related to the whole report but rather, a certain section of it. Let me explain.

The Commission’s report contains three possible plans for our Denomination’s continued struggle to include, or not, Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, and Queer persons in the full life of our church. I finished reading the entire report yesterday and came away rather depressed, heartbroken, and even angry.

I did fine reading through the One Church Model, which in essence creates local control in the denomination for clergy, local churches, and Annual Conferences in terms of whether they will officiate or host same gender weddings and whether Annual Conferences will ordain LGBTQ persons. While my conviction is I cannot sign on in full support of this model, to me it is the sanest of the three. I believe I can probably exist in the environment this model would create though, I cannot fully support it because it continues to allow the United Methodist Church to discriminate and do harm to our LGBTQ members and clergy. It is wrong and needs to be rectified and should this pass I would continue to be a voice of advocacy and change until the denomination makes available to the whole of the church the grace and life we claim to all persons including LGBTQ persons in our communities.

The second model I read was a little more difficult to get my head around though in theory I think I understand. The summary version is it would create three conferences in the U.S.A., a Progressive (Fully Inclusive) Conference, a “Traditional” (as we have now) Conference, and a Uniting Conference (agree to disagree). Once again, while this seems to be an attempt at a step forward, it allows our churches to discriminate and do harm.

The third model is called the Traditional Model, herein is where the image of the weed in my rock bed began to take shape. This model would leave our United Methodist Discipline as is, continue to discriminate against and do harm to LGBTQ persons within and outside the church. But it would not stop there. This model creates even more punitive reactions to those who long for an open inclusive church. Clergy, churches, boards of ordained ministry, conferences, and bishops who we unable to sign on to an agreement that they support this model would in essence be invited to leave.

While this model is referred to as Traditional it is anything but. It is certainly not in keeping with Wesley’s model of grace, for in my opinion, this model is devoid of grace, compassion, and understanding. Such legalism and punitive faith is not traditional as its literalness is only two hundred to three hundred years old at best. Its roots are shallow, thin, and brittle, invasive and unsightly.

When looking at loving relationships between same gender couples, the prohibitions are simply not in the scriptures. The clobber passages that are cited in our bible do not address same gender relationships as we know them today. To continue to cite these passages to discriminate and do harm to LGBTQ persons is uninformed at best and disingenuous at worse. John Wesley’s commitment to education should lead us further to understand this. To continue to cite two thousand to four-thousand-year-old understandings and writings without consideration of twenty first century education, science, reason, and experience is ludicrous and unfaithful.

As I read this so-called traditional model it occurred to me in my fifty-nine years in the Methodist/United Methodist church and my twenty-six years of ministry I have never read a supposed United Methodist/Wesleyan document so devoid of understanding, compassion, and grace. It boggles the mind that we as a denomination, founded by Wesley and his commitment to grace, understanding, and education, are even giving this model a voice and place on the floor at General Conference.

It is a weed. A weed with at best a thin and brittle taproot creeping across the landscape of our beloved United Methodist Denomination setting down shallow roots in an attempt to cover the foundational bedrock of the Grace and Love of God so treasured by our church.

February is still months away. There is much work to be done in preparation for this Special Called General Conference. There will be much work to be done after it is completed regardless of what the decision is. I will be there, not as a delegate, but as an observer and in prayer. I hope you join me in earnest prayer and action for our United Methodist Church, its soul is at risk. May we once again be a church grounded in grace, immersing in love…a church making justice happen, loving as God loves, and being the very reflection of God in the world.

Love is Love!

Love will Win. Love Always Wins…

when we Love One Another. Every. Single. Other.

Until there are no others. Only one Beloved Community of All.

Peace and Light for this Journey.

Pastor Kent

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The Word

July 17, 2018

My struggle to put my thoughts into words comes from my wrestling with who I am and whose I am. There is a tension for me between my citizenship and my chosen vocation. As an ardent supporter of our constitutional ideal of separation of church and state I have a difficult time wearing the simultaneous hats of citizen and clergy.

I have long been an advocate, voice, and practitioner of justice making for all of our citizens, in particular those who are discriminated against, marginalized, and oppressed. I rarely wade into partisan politics when it comes to my writing and never when it comes to my role as clergy. While I believe Jesus was certainly political, I would posit he was never partisan. His critiques of empire and the political domination system was about policy and practice, never a particular philosophy of politic. He was certainly critical of those leaders who practiced and condoned policies of injustice, violence, and oppression. It is within this tradition I write these words.

That was two rather long paragraphs to get where I am trying to go as I wrestle with my thoughts and words. Over the last year and a half, I have struggled with our current political environment and in particular this administration and our president. I have watched and listened as he bragged about objectifying women. I have watched and listened as he belittled war heroes and their families. I have watched and listened as he mocked the disabled and the sexually abused. I have watched and listened as he continuously disparages our free press and anyone who disagrees with him. I have watched and listened as he denies at best and lies at worse about things he has verifiably said and done. And most recently has once again diminished our own intelligence agencies and multitudes of others who have confirmed via investigation and fact a foreign country technologically attacked our country and its election process.

As I continued to ponder and wonder all this again this evening it struck me…the word…the word I had been searching for. Contempt. I am not sure I have ever known a person, certainly not a leader, with as much contempt as our president. At least in my perception, and perhaps this is an exaggeration, but it appears to me he holds in contempt almost all things; the world, the world’s leaders, our allies, the poor, foreign persons in our country, the differently abled, his own party, his supporters, even perhaps his country, and his office. Maybe I am blowing this out of proportion, but when I read his tweets, listen to his speeches, watch him encounter others on the world stage, with the exception of a handful perhaps, transgender persons in our military, other religions, …the list is too long finish…. I hear so much contempt. And what deepens my struggle and heartache are those who continue to support his actions or turn a blind eye as if it is all okay and just part of the plan.

I will not be one to say, “He is not my president,” he is, right, wrong, or indifferent, for now he is our president…but I cannot support his actions and contempt for our standing in the world and his contempt for the least of these in our midst here in the USA. As a Christian clergy I will continue everyday to keep him, the administration, our governing leaders, and our country in my daily prayers… but I will not condone his contempt and I continue to resist at every turn words, practices, and actions that diminish the office of our Presidency, weaken our country’s standing with those who work for justice, belittle the oppressed and impoverished, mock the abused and differently abled, and looks with contempt on the freedoms and justice for which we contend.

To continue to support the levels of contempt and disregard for justice and compassion we are seeing in our country today will surely cause us to reap what we are sowing if we have not already begun. It is time to wake up we citizens, it is time for the church, all communities of faith, who long for and work tirelessly for the right, good, just, and compassionate beloved community to become that for which we dream! We need to pray for our country… but not just with words, with our hands and feet, with our work and our passion, with our hope and our compassion, with our voices of justice and reason! Speak up! Show up! When the time comes… Vote!

Make justice happen. Love as God loves. Be the very reflection of God in the world.

The soul of our nation depends on it. Perhaps even… our own.

May it be so. May it be now.

Rev. Kent H. Little