Posts Tagged ‘homosexuality’

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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365 Days of Prayer

February 12, 2018

The Discipline of the United Methodist Church365 Days of Prayer

Paragraph 161F– The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.

Paragraph 304.3– The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.

Paragraph 341.6 – Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.

The preceding statements are excerpts from our United Methodist Discipline. They are discriminatory against Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender persons within and outside our beloved United Methodist Church. While these statements are believed to be linked to biblical teachings in our Judeo-Christian tradition and according to debate and resolution are the traditional teachings and understandings of the faith, they are grounded in scripture texts that are tribal based, culturally bound, as well as addressing promiscuous and abusive relationships. Twenty-first Century understanding, science, and progress shows us same gender relationships in our understanding today are simply not addressed in our canon of scripture.

For these reasons College Hill United Methodist Church continues to be committed to the task of having these statements removed from our United Methodist Discipline. They are unjust, unscriptural, and harmful to our LGBT brothers and sisters, members, and those who would seek a place in the church of Jesus Christ.

As many of us know the 2016 General Conference and Council of Bishops implemented a Commission to study and bring forth The Way Forward to a Special Called General Conference of the United Methodist Church to resolve our conflicted ministry with LGBTQ persons. This Special General Conference will meet in Saint Louis, February 23 – 26, 2019. It will be a pivotal time in the life of the United Methodist Church.

In light of this coming General Conference I am calling on our College Hill United Methodist Church Community, and those who would like to join us, to be in 365 Days of Prayer for our Bishops, the Commission on The Way Forward, our Delegates, and our UM Church. It is my intent to pray for the opening of minds and hearts, that we might truly live into our stated Open Minds, Open Hearts, and Open Doors. It is my hope that as a result of the many prayers and actions of our churches and members justice may finally roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. May the Spirit move so we would become a church of welcome, inclusion, compassion, justice, and love.

There will be charts available to sign up for as many days as you would like to be in prayer for our Denomination one Sunday mornings as well as in the office through the week. It is my prayer we will have persons signed up and intentionally praying each of the 365 days beginning February 26, 2018. The Chapel will be open every day for this time of hope and prayer, however prayers happen, and you certainly do not need to be present here to be in prayer or to sign up for a day. If you are not a part of College Hill UMC but would like to participate simply let us know and we can sign you up, most importantly, pray.  May we indeed Make Justice Happen, Love as God Loves, and Be the Very Reflection of God in the World.

May it Be So.

Pastor Kent

I Too Am Guilty; Ruminations Along a Turnpike Drive

June 5, 2016

I have been hesitant to write anything in reflection or response since our United Methodist General Conference, in part because I am still processing exactly where I think I am with its outcomes and decisions. I am encouraged by some of what I heard from our Great Plains Annual Conference Delegates and I am at the same time disappointed by much of what I watched via live-stream and what I have read.

Much of my disappointment comes from our continued inability to talk with one another, civilly and respectfully, of our diverse sexuality. For me though, it is not just about how we should be opening our denomination to all persons regardless of sexual orientation and identity, but what seems to be the undoing of much of our tradition of social justice in the UMC. From not voting to divest from questionable practices, to not supporting justice in Israel and Palestine, to our severing ties with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. As a lifelong United Methodist it feels like we are undoing decades of progress in the area of social justice for all.

I am still in a wrestling match with our approval of the Council of Bishop’s Proposal for a Way Forward. While I understand the possibilities for hope, it also feels like we have kicked the can down the road for at least two to three years. My prayer is this can kicking will be an opportunity for the opening of a window in which we as a denomination might encounter the immersing grace of God for ALL.

Today, I believe, was a moment of grace in our own Great Plains Annual Conference. We passed a nonbinding resolution to ask our Committee on Investigation to pause the current process regarding our colleague Rev. Cynthia Meyer, and seek a just resolution and not go to trial. For me it was an opportunity for our Annual Conference to make a plea to the Committee as well as to our Bishop, to please find another way to resolve the complaint that does not necessitate a trial while not turning her away from the vital ministry she does in our midst; in the UM church she serves, and our United Methodist Church as a whole.

I was pleased with the nature of our discussion on the floor of Annual Conference this morning. It was calm, respectful, and civil. There were numerous people who rose to speak in opposition to the resolution as well as numerous, including myself, who spoke in favor.

As I sat and listened I was struck by a couple of things. Things that have wandered through my wondering mind before and I have addressed periodically but this time I had two hours to ponder them as I drove home from Topeka via the turnpike with nothing but my music, my thoughts, and the beautiful lush green flint hills to keep me company.

One is as we share about homosexuality and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender persons, we, myself included, when I fail to remain mindful, are not talking about an issue, we are talking about persons, lives, good and faithful members of our churches and our world. And too often when we talk about an issue we can fail to acknowledge their person-hood, to put a face on those we are talking with, whether we are allies or not.

The other thing that struck me was, in conversing about our UMC Disciplinary language, is the lifting up how we are all sinners, if you will. That we have all, in one way or another, been incompatible with the faith, or at least our Discipline. There are unethical acts and practices that can go unchecked, there are those of us who have looked at another with lust in our hearts, thus according to scripture have committed adultery, sinned with our hands or eyes and still have them intact, and the list can get pretty long so I will just leave the rest to your own reflections.

While I understand the implications of these citations, and I have used them in the past as well, I have come to believe they are not parallel nor helpful to what we are talking about. These unethical and/or immoral citations have implications of harm and destruction. They can damage the self, one’s relationship with another, with colleagues, with friends, family, even God.

I know there are those good and faithful persons who cite the scriptural passages that in some way speak to same gender relations. However, in terms of loving, mutual, consensual, monogamous relationships, the scriptures do not address them, the Bible is silent. The citations used are addressing idolatry, purity laws, promiscuous, and non-consensual relations. All of which have destructive, harmful, and damaging implications regardless of one’s orientation.

The difference here is Cynthia and our other LGBT colleagues and friends, have done nothing wrong. Their willingness to be their authentic self as God has created them does not threaten me, it does no destructive or unethical harm to another. If we decide to put her on trial, we are trying her not for how she has damaged a covenant, but putting her on trial simply for being herself. And as such we risk harm and damage to the Body of Christ by losing called of God, valuable, and gifted clergy person.

As I reflected while driving home on the turnpike, what came to me was this. If we put her on trial for being who she is, it is not just her we are putting on trial, it is me, and it is all of us. If we put our LGBT colleagues and friends on trial for being authentically who they are, we are putting the church on trial. And if we do this, and we find our LGBT colleagues guilty, I too am guilty, we are all guilty, and the church is guilty for the trial and conviction of an innocent member of our community, a sacred child of God.

There is hope in the Bishops Proposal for a Way Forward. There is hope in the resolution we passed today as a Great Plains Annual Conference. There is hope because, although it may feel like the Committee and the Bishop have no other choice as to what they will do, there are prophetic and compassionate choices that can move us to a Way Forward that fits with the Council of Bishop’s language of finding a way to avoid further charges and trials without punishing one for who they are.

I believe, we, all of us, wherever we find ourselves in relationship with our LGBT brothers and sisters, must find a way to justly resolve the conflicts, a way to compassionately and faithfully navigate the future. We must find a way to remain together without inviting those we disagree with to simply surrender and leave. We must find a way to acknowledge and honor our differences and still realize we all serve the world in a way that welcomes more and more into the Kindom of God.

Such a way will take much prayer and discernment, such a way will take courage and hard work, and such a way will take real listening, dialogue, love, and prophetic leadership. It can be done. It must be done. We must stop the abuse and harm we continue to visit upon those of our LGBT colleagues and friends for no other reason than who they are, a child of God, just like me, just like you.

My reflections and prayers for the day, I pray they are received in the grace in which they are intended.

May it be so…May it be now.

Kent

Peace; Passive and Active, We Are Not More, But We Can Be. A Comment and Call for General Conference

March 29, 2016

This is a rather long “blog” as it is a sermon, but I have had several requests for the transcript. This is the extended version. The delivered version in audio is available on our website at http://collegehillumc.org/gathering under the media tab.

Peace; Passive and Active,
We Are Not More, But We Can Be.
A Comment and Call for General Conference

March 13, 2016

“It’s Windy” “No, it’s Thursday” “Yeah, me too. Let’s get a drink.“ It is never easy to know if one is being understood or if the hearer is understanding correctly. We can be in a setting listening or speaking and hear the words or speak the words and then find ourselves in that conundrum of, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

[Let me say here I have since this sermon and writing visited with our communications director and we are visiting and working on how to communicate this campaign in a way that is open and affirming of the diverse expressions and commitments to faith and justice in our conference and jurisdiction]

I found myself in that position a few weeks ago, a disturbing, reactive, troubling place I knew I needed to process before I responded. The troubling in my soul has been present for a lot of years. This particular troubling brought it to mind again at a gathering of our clergy in Lincoln, Nebraska a few weeks ago. I learned of a communications campaign, for lack of better words, entitled We Are More, which I would confirm later is a United Methodist jurisdictional collaboration among many areas in our region.

When I first learned of it what I heard was at our upcoming General Conference of the United Methodist Church there would be many discussions around controversial topics. The media will choose to focus on these topics and the communication campaign is designed to suggest, while these topics are important, we are more than these topics. My first and immediate reaction was concern and a bit of a knot in my stomach.

The approach sounded to me like an attempt to deflect and move the conversation away from these topics and talk about something else. My colleague Rev. Mark Holland put words to the troubling in my soul when he asked the question, “Are we more than justice?”

While I believe I can hear the intent of the campaign, I confess it still troubles me, in how it might be communicated and used to deflect, diminish, and even shut down fruitful and much needed conversation about our Denomination’s commitment to justice and in particular social justice.

As I understand the campaign to date, it is to create a collection of videos and statements inviting persons to share their conversion and faith stories and to say, while these topics are important, regardless of our differences we all agree that, Making Disciples of Jesus for the Transformation of the World,  is our primary responsibility. i.e. We are a world-wide denomination with a great deal of concerns and ministries.

I do not disagree with that sentiment and commitment, and while I do not disagree it could be construed that there is somehow a difference or a disconnect between our social justice concerns and making disciples. I have no doubt, in particular, for our LGBT colleagues and members, as I have heard their concerns, the campaign feels like a deflection and diminishing of their place and their concerns, as do many of us who are allies and committed to justice for all of God’s children.

As for me, I am unwilling to concede there is some kind of disconnect or separation between Making Disciples and Equality and Inclusion for All Persons in the church regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. Disciple making and inviting is about walking with God in Christ, learning, following, reaching out, and loving. We are all called to practice discipleship, straight or gay. Equality, and inclusion IS Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

The personal grace and salvific nature of our journey of faith and United Methodist heritage is truly an important part of our conversation. John Wesley was certainly concerned with piety, relationship, and personal transformation. And he had a strong emphasis on social justice as shared in our United Methodist Discipline which states, “there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness.” In other words, for Wesley, our faith is not individualistic, it is social in nature, we need each other. Faith doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The troubling in my soul and the knot in my stomach is how our communication of this campaign can be, and has already been, seen as an either/or rather than a both/and.

One of the primary tension filled topics of our General Conference will be human sexuality and sexual orientation and how our United Methodist Church responds to our brothers and sisters who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender. These faithful persons in our congregations should not be seen as a but we are more, rather they are more as well.

As I shared with our Bishop one morning, I do not want to be seen as a one issue clergy person, and I know our denomination does not either. While there are other issues of social justice needing to be addressed, how we respond to persons who are LGBT and to the LGBT members and colleagues in our churches is a priority and of utmost importance.

In our own prophetic tradition there is precedent of preaching and proclaiming justice in the face of injustice until justice is made to happen. Some days it can feel like I am a broken record, and yet I refuse to be silent in the face of a belittling, diminishing, and dismissing of the faith and person-hood of so many of my friends and colleagues. We are concerned here not with a topic or an issue, but rather with people’s lives and livelihoods, calls and commissions, and the faith and practice of all children of God, persons of good character and love.

While human sexuality and sexual orientation is a priority, I also believe the critique of a but We are More communication campaign applies across the board of justice in our world including the death penalty, education, refugees, immigration, Medicaid expansion, poverty, homelessness, and the whole spectrum of justice, and particularly social justice concerns of our denomination. We are not more than these social justice concerns, I would rather say, We are These Concerns, All of Them, when it comes to justice for all.

In the familiar passage we read from Ecclesiastes, most scholars agree the author of these words was most likely depressed, frustrated, he or she was a realist of realists. Perhaps beaten up, oppressed, excluded, and treated unjustly by life. A life, they have determined that is futile; work, eat, drink, be merry and what else is there? For the author it is simply seasons and times of life. The journey of life, in culture and society, In relationship, all the times there are, and for the purposes of this sermon, in particular, times of speaking and times of silence.

I agree with this passage. There are times and seasons to our lives. Time to mourn and dance. Gather together and separate, embrace and refrain from embracing, weeping and laughing, there is a time to keep and throw away, a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

I have been told by some colleagues and others that perhaps now is the time to be silent, to be in prayer, to seek understanding and conversation in silence and solemnness. While there is nothing wrong with these things, I do not believe this is the time for silence. This is the time to speak, especially now as we approach General Conference. Especially now when the conversation is growing more and more prevalent. Now is the Time to speak, silence only serves to promote the injustices our world and fellow pilgrims on the journey are experiencing.

It is time to speak, time for ALL of us to speak and to acknowledge there are times for silent reflection, and inner peace, perhaps even passive practice of peace and meditation, AND there is a time for active peacemaking, justice making, and I believe that time is now! Speak up, let your voices, your faith, your lives be heard, until Justice is made to happen!

This posture and way of living and loving is about participating in the vision of God’s justice for all, and with God’s help, into a just, compassionate, and peaceful place for which we all yearn. Living into this vision of God’s compassionate justice in the world is about justice for all. And in terms of our denomination, in terms of the church, the Body of Christ, to emphasize my friend’s words once again, “We are not more than justice.”

All of this being said, I do believe we can be more than the injustices we promote as a denomination, as local churches, and as members. I was struck this week as I studied in Isaiah and his words for the community in which he was a part, listen –

…that you come before me – Who asked that of you? Trample my courts no more; bringing oblations is futile, incense is offensive to me. New moon and Sabbath, proclaiming of solemnities, assemblies with iniquity, I cannot abide. Your new moons and fixed seasons fill me with loathing; they are become a burden to me, I cannot endure them. And when you lift up your hands, I will turn my eyes away from you; though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained with crime-wash yourselves clean; put your evil doings away from my sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.

These are the prophetic words from Isaiah for his community and ours…

We can be more than excluding good, qualified, faithful, loving LGBT members of our churches and congregations by welcoming and ordaining them into the full life of the church.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we claim to be nonviolent and then lobby for fewer firearm restrictions when we are outside the walls of the church.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we claim to love the poor and yet shame them by supporting drug testing and calling them lazy if they need to be on assistance.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we claim to welcome all and then support banning Syrian refugees from our country.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we state healthcare is a right and then condemn the only attempt to provide health coverage for all.

We can be more than the injustices we promote when we claim to value life and then lobby for continuation of the death penalty.

Yes, we can be more than stating “all persons are of sacred worth to God,” while claiming “except for these.”

I do believe we can be more than the injustices we promote as a denomination, as local churches, and as members. We can be more when all of God’s children have access to both sides of the table.

We can be more when all have enough. We can be more when we are as concerned with tearing down the walls of injustice as we are with keeping the doors shut.

We can be more when we are as committed to justice for all as we are with maintaining the status quo.

We are not more than the important, compassionate, grace-filled, welcoming, loving, justice of God, all of it and more. I pray daily for our beloved United Methodist Church and our General Conference and delegates, praying one day we become more than a Denomination that fears conflict, difference, diversity, and change.

As shared with me by a friend and colleague, we are a broad tent denomination, with a wide variety of theology, belief, and practice and yes, we are more than a single issue church, but we are not more than justice for all God’s children, all of them.

Here I stand. Here I remain. In love and service with the United Methodist Church. May grace abound and love immerse us all. May it be so. May it be so in 2016. Speak Up! IT’S TIME!

Rev. Kent H. Little

 

Where Are You?

October 15, 2015

I walked away from the meeting feeling as good as I have in a long time. My friend asked me, “So, this journey you have been on, how are you, where are you?” I had to pause for a moment before I responded. Over the many months, and to a large degree over the past several weeks I have been on what I consider an inward journey; inward into my past, my future, and finally my present.

There is so much to consider about what I, what we, experience in the past that shapes and molds who we become in positive and negative ways. And to come to the realization that just a blip on the screen of one’s life can effect so much, can open one’s eyes to a clarity and vision that grounds one in who, whose, what, and why they are.

There is so much in our world that can seem so broken. So much to worry about, fight against, stand up to, and speak out against. It is often difficult, I think, in our current reality to get to the important, deeper, and more life giving issues than in this soundbite world we live in.

There is so much attention focused on “what is in it for me” rather than making this world a better place in which to live for “all” of us. Depending on what side of the political and or religious fence one is on determines where we stand on so many issues, but really not “issues,” we are affecting people’s lives and livelihoods.

Prepare here for personal, religious, political perspective rant. Too many lives and livelihoods are threatened in our country, in our world today.

The lives and livelihoods of persons, female persons, who want to access quality healthcare, prescriptions, abortion care, care that should be provided and decided between them and their doctors, and in clinics that shouldn’t subjected to false accusations and edited videos, government should not be making these decisions for women and their doctors.

The lives and livelihoods of parents and children who want a more safe and sane world, more safe and sane educational experiences, without having to worry about whether some unlicensed, untrained, unregistered individual is going to walk into the room with a gun with intent to do harm.

The lives and livelihoods of immigrants and their children and whether they are going to have a chance at education, food, medical care, and the opportunity to become citizens without the fear of deportation and inhumane treatment.

The lives and livelihoods of young black men and women, parents and children alike, who have to worry about being targeted and profiled unjustly putting their lives and livelihoods at risk.

The lives and livelihoods of the poor, middle class, working poor whose incomes and resources are continued to be mocked and swallowed up by the greedy and those who lack compassion.

The lives and livelihoods of those religious who simply want to practice their faith in peace but are besieged by protest, threat, suspicion, lies, and bigotry in a nation founded on freedom of religion.

The lives and livelihoods of those who simply want to embrace the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us, marry the ones they love, buy their houses, file their taxes, care for one another and visit one another when they are sick, and share the same protections under the law that my wife and I have.

The lives and livelihoods of all of us, when science is ignored and denied while glaciers melt, anomaly weather patterns create floods, droughts, and super storms that threaten life as we know it.

There is so very much wrong in our world, in our country, in our government, in our churches today. And I believe we are charged with the continued work of trying to make it a better place, for all of us, all of us.

All of this being said, I had a bit of a revelation along this journey I have been on over the last many months and last few weeks. Life is too short. Life is too short to get bogged down in what is wrong with the world. Life is too short to get caught up in a soundbite world that is more interested in shallow fear of the other, fear of new things, than it is in the weightier matters of the common good for all. Life is too short to focus on sensationalized headlines rather than substantive information and education. Whether it be in the halls of government or the sanctuaries of the church, life is too short to bicker about who is in and who is out, who is worthy and who is not, what I want to your exclusion, or who deserves and who is undeserving. Life is too short not to embrace the world, the whole of it and tell it, “I love you, and deep down inside … you are good; Good I Tell You!

With all of this preceding pondering, I can say I walked away from my meeting as good as I have been in a long time. “Where are you?” he asked. “I’m right here.” I replied. “Right here, in as good a place as I have been for a long time, here in this moment.” Life is too short to let the past continue to obscure and blur my vision. Life is too short to worry about the future. Life is too short to live anywhere but right here, in this moment.

My calling by the Spirit of the Divine as a politically active pastor, clergy, advocate, voice, thorn in the side, and nervous prophet is no less important to me, I would venture to say it is now even more so now. My encounters with the Divine contine to bring me peace, nurture, and connection. My calling is within and outside the halls of the church. Within to continue to challenge the status quo, to continue to look for where God is doing a new thing. My studies, I pray, will bring new revelations and understandings of what it means to follow The Way. Progressive and compassionate theologies grounded in love of God, neighbor, and self, not focused on fear and sacrifice. And that Spirit calls me to be a voice, presence, and advocate of social justice not only within the church but in the halls of government as well. Our Gospel is a Social Gospel and without the Social Gospel there is no Gospel at all.

I still intend on changing the world, even if it is just my little corner of it, moment by ticking moment. My renewed vision of the present moment has clarified for me my vision of the task that lies before me. Life is too short to sit idly by and watch as injustice after injustice diminishes and belittles the lives and livelihoods of too many women, men, and children.

I am no longer governed by fear, but am led and guided by, immersed in the love of the Divine, a love that I believe we are all immersed and connected within. This love of God is a love from which nothing, no thing, not one thing, can ever separate any of us … in each eternal moment, we are loved, period! I am here, right here, and present in as good a place as I have been for a long time. I am not going away or shrinking back, the moment before us is huge, but we will persevere, we will see the day, when Love will, Love does, when Love Wins!

Just a long process of pondering along the Journey of the Way… the Way of Light, Life, and Love.

Kent.

2015 Great Plains Annual Conference ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF DIVERSE BELIEFS REGARDING HOMOSEXUALITY

June 13, 2015

I have had questions about the actual petition, for those who are interested in the Petition Approved by The Great Plains Annual Conference asking our General Conference of the United Methodist Church acknowledge our differing opinions and to remove the restrictive and discriminatory language in our UM Discipline here is the petition as amended and passed by by our GPAC today. The portions with the strike through are the language that would be deleted and the bold is what was added.

PETITION 7
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF DIVERSE BELIEFS REGARDING HOMOSEXUALITY
Financial Implications
None
Rationale
Since 1972 the United Methodist Church has taken increasingly firmer positions opposing non-
heterosexual orientations. Attempting to make all United Methodists conform to traditional beliefs has not
decreased denominational tension. This petition attempts to relocate decision making to the appropriate level, i.e. Annual Conference and Pastors, and ease tension.

Whereas the United Methodist Church has been gradually centralizing control in matters of ordination, candidacy, and pastoral authority as regards “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,” and

Whereas
the 2012 Book of Discipline(BoD) asserts that pastors have the authority to determine who to marry
(¶340.2a3) and Annual Conferences have the authority to determine who is qualified for ordination (¶330, ¶335), And

Whereas
our Doctrinal Standards are silent on sexuality but explicit in quoting John Wesley that “As to all
opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think,” (BoD, ¶102) and

Whereas
scholars in the United Methodist and other Christian traditions have made coherent cases that loving,
monogamous relationships including same-sex relationships can be affirmed without jeopardizing the authority of Scripture or “strik[ing] at the root of Christianity.”

Therefore, be it resolved
that the Great Plains Annual Conference petition the 2016 General Conference to amend the Book of Discipline as follows:

1. Paragraph 161F: “…We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.

A significant majority of United Methodists continue to hold the long-standing belief that homosexual practice is incompatible with Christian teaching, while we acknowledge and respect differences in opinion on human sexuality. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”

2. Paragraph 304.3: “While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”

3. Paragraph 310.2d footnote 3: delete paragraphs 1-3, (ending with “…affirms its high standards) and 8-9 (from “The General Conference has made it clear…” and ending with “…against persons because they are single.”). The remaining footnote references Wesley’s Questions and the final two paragraphs.

4. paragraph 341.6: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

5. paragraph 613.9: “To ensure that no annual conference board, agency, committee, commission, or council shall give United Methodist funds to any gay caucus or group, or otherwise use such funds to promote the acceptance of homosexuality or violate the expressed commitment of the UMC “not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends” (¶161.F). The council shall have the right to stop such expenditures. This restriction shall not limit the Church’s ministry in response to the HIV epidemic, nor shall it preclude funding for dialogs or educational events where the Church’s official position is fairly and equally represented.”

6. Paragraph 2702.1: “1 A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference (¶370), local pastor, clergy on
honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may be tried when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in ¶2702.4) with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage; (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies; (c) crime; (d) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church; (e) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (f) relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor; (g) child abuse; (h) sexual abuse;(i) sexual misconduct or (j) harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; or (k) racial or gender discrimination.”

Implemented by
Secretary of Annual Conference

Submitted by: David Livingston, Kent Little, Kurt Cooper, Nancy Brown, Jerry Feese, Kate Johnson Martin, Brian Sutton, Andrea Paret, Jamie Norwich McLennan, Jack Dutton, Shelly McNaughton-Lawrence, Sandy Simmons, Jan Rhind, Cynthia Meyer, Nancy Liston, Loren Drummond, Karen Nyhart, Linda Stoker, Joey Hentzler, Kent Melcher, Linda Miller, Cynthia Walley, Debora Cox

It’s a Broad Tent

July 31, 2014

It was a huge, sprawling, and beautiful apricot tree in the backyard of the parsonage at the church I was serving at the time. This particular year it was loaded with blossoms, so much so that one just needed to pass by the house or open a window to be enveloped in the intoxicating fragrance of apricot blossoms. It was absolutely beautiful.

As a result the tree produced more fruit than I had ever seen on the tree in the years we had lived there. I even announced at church one morning for people to please come and help themselves as the branches were beginning to bend clear to the ground under the heavy burden of fruit. Unfortunately we did not respond quickly enough. One morning I stepped out the side door of the parsonage to see the weighted down and burdened tree split right down the middle, through the very center of the trunk, clear to the soil. It was a sad sight to see this once tall and fruitful tree sprawled out on the ground with no hope of repair.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and pondering in preparation for our Love in Action Great Plains Reconciling Ministries Network Conference scheduled to begin this coming Friday evening. There are a lot of blogs, theories, scenarios, and “ways” out there regarding our current conflict in the United Methodist Church around how we are in ministry with, or not, our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered friends, brothers, and sisters, and members.

Before I continue on I want to be upfront and honest about where I am in regards to theology and perspective regarding inclusion of LGBTQ persons in our United Methodist Church. I am what one may consider a progressive Christian and work for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the full life of the church including marriage, membership, ordination, and service. I want to name that because even though as much as I try to consider the current conversation with a balanced eye, I am biased; I believe we are all biased even at our best attempts not to be.

My struggle, and the reason I felt moved to write about this again, anyone who follows my blog even semi-regularly knows I have written about LGBTQ inclusion often, is my perception of the blogs and theories that I see being put forth.

It seems to me, in my experience, those with what would be considered the more progressive view point have been willing to live in this tension of conflicted Disciplinary language ever since the restrictive language was placed over forty years ago, at least have been willing to live in that tension until recently. Recently, in a movement known as Biblical Obedience and others, there have been those who have participated in ecclesial disobedience in order to live out faithfully their call and ministry, not only individuals but conferences and even a whole jurisdiction. There have been some consequences, albeit according to some not near enough consequences.

 
Recently, and I attribute that to our upcoming General Conference in 2016, there has been much talk and publication about the pros and cons of a split in the UMC. Some groups are suggesting an amicable separation and others are less amicable; some are saying schism is not the way, and still others have been trying to strike a balance between the two.

As I read though, and I admit I am sure I have not read all blogs, publications, proposals, etc., there is for me a striking difference between those who would consider themselves progressive, supporting the removal of the restrictive language regarding LGBTQ persons in our Discipline, and those who are conservative, supporting the current restrictive language in our Discipline.

It has appeared to me that those who claim the progressive, full inclusion perspective are not promoting a split or schism but rather would rather find a way to live together with our differences, and those who would claim the conservative, supporting the current Disciplinary language have proposed split either by their leaving or inviting the more progressive churches and clergy to leave.

The conversation can be seen as burdensome and divisive and when the focus becomes on those who can stay and those who can leave and before we know it this once fruit laden denomination may find itself sprawled out on the ground with no hope of repair.

That being said I realize there are probably numerous variations of this observation, I have no doubt there are those who are progressive that would just rather split and there are those who are conservative who would rather find a way to stay together. I am simply expressing the majority of what I have read and listened.

I do not believe schism is the Way. As one who embraces the more progressive theology and stance that we should remove the restrictive language and make open our Discipline to fully include in all aspects of our church regardless of sexual orientation or identity, I believe, to quote a colleague of mine, “there is room under the broad tent of United Methodism for all of us,” and I am not going anywhere. It would appear to me that the loudest of the voices I read and hear from the more conservative of our UM church do not hold such a view and do not believe our “tent” to be broad enough. I believe such a stance is lamentable and the wrong direction for this church I love. I believe there is room for us if we are willing open our hands and honor that notion of Wesley that our hearts are not that dissimilar, we have hearts made for love, love of God and love of one another. Perhaps it is too little too late, perhaps, or perhaps we find a way to live together with our differences where all … gay, straight, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered; better yet simply all God’s children can find welcome, inclusion, appreciation, and live their faith fulfilling calls to ministry in the church on all sides of the table. May it be so. May it be soon.

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

May 21, 2014

ImageI remember the day the young man I had never met came to my office with an idea about a presentation. His enthusiasm and passion for his life and topic were rather contagious, though I admit I was a little hesitant to agree to his idea as I did not know him well at the time.

 
Matthew had left school at Harvard to immerse himself in research regarding the bible and homosexuality. He wanted to make a presentation at our church and invite the whole community. I suggested I visit with our church board but I was sure it would be more than welcome in our community of faith.

 

After several visits it was decided he would present his research to our church members first, as a rather practice run if you will, I shared with him our community at College Hill United Methodist Church would be very open and interested in his research and journey. Once we had that event under our belt we would promote a larger event to invite the larger community with the hopes of having persons attend from not only a progressive theological lens but also conservative.

Both events went very well and I can say Matthew’s research and presentation is one of, if not the, most thoroughly researched presentations regarding the passages in the bible that address same gender relations I have ever heard or read.

His new book God and the Gay Christian is not only an extension of that excellent academic work of his first presentation but is accessible and readable by all manner of persons regardless of their academic training. Matthew presents his research in a personal way that invites the reader in to really hear what the bible, its culture, language, and writers had to say in those ancient texts as well as what they might have to say to us today.

Matthew’s book invites us into ways of thinking and understanding that are both faithful to the biblical text and compassionate. Our churches must move into a more graceful posture rather than continuing to do harm to persons of “inestimable dignity and worth,” as Vines says. His words struck a sobering cord with me as I read, “In the final analysis, it is not gay Christians who are sinning against God by entering into monogamous, loving relationships. It is we who are sinning against them by rejecting their intimate relationships.”

If you care about the church and its future, if you care about those around you who are children of the Divine, if you want to know what the bible actually has to say about same gender relations, or wherever you are on the theological spectrum regarding “God and the Gay Christian,” this book is a must read. I highly recommend it. Thank you Matthew for this gift to the church! Mostly thank you for you and your commitment, grace, and witness to the love of God for us all.

Peace and Light for Your Journey,

Rev. Kent H. Little, senior pastor
College Hill United Methodist Church
Wichita, KS

The Disconnect

June 20, 2011

As I participated in our Annual Conference a few weeks ago in Hutchinson, KS I was impressed and encouraged by so many of the presentations and sermons I had the opportunity to experience. I continue to hear language of grace, welcome, inclusion, and radical hospitality. I am so grateful for this language and attempt to articulate our vision and dreams of being an open church that promotes not only an openness of heart, mind, and doors, but also a people and church that opens hearts, minds, and doors.
I must confess though, I am troubled by the disconnect I find between who we say we are and the reality of who we are. I believe it is fundamentally not only a practical issue but also theological. I find this disconnect between words of “all persons are of sacred worth” and “the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching;” a disconnect between a “clergy’s due counsel and responsibility to perform marriage ceremonies where the decision to perform the ceremony shall be the right and responsibility of the pastor” and “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”
We continue to be concerned about our declining numbers and resources. We continue to look to the future with vision and hope, as well we should. But I see our church deeply divided and conflicted between a theology of grace and openness and a politic of control and exclusion. I see our church deeply divided to the point of even refusing to admit we are not of one mind on this issue let along others. We, I believe, continue to operate in a kind of split personality and theological denial.
We are a church challenged and called to be Risk Taking, Excited, Radically Inviting, and a church of Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors, a faith community ready and willing to Re-Think Church! But I have to wonder if we are really all these things. Are we really willing to risk opening our doors, our minds, and our hearts to all persons? Do we really practice radical hospitality? Do we really believe all persons are of sacred worth? Do we really embrace Christ in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female? Is it within our ability to live a life and faith and practice a means of grace that is inclusive of all? Sometimes I wonder.
The one thing I do not wonder about is timing, because I believe it is time. It is time to embrace who we dream to be, confess who we are, and allow the Spirit of God to transform us within and without into the church God calls us to be; a people of faith truly and radically inclusive as the Body of Christ., a people of faith and love whose Hearts, Minds, and Doors are indeed, Open.
I hope you join us this weekend at the Pride Fest and visit the College Hill UMC booth as we reflect the light of love and Believe Out Loud! I hope you join us Sunday morning in one of our Celebration times as we celebrate our decision to be a Reconciling Church and continue to work toward full inclusion of our gay and lesbian friends, brothers and sisters, family into the life of the church.
It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

It’s Time

April 16, 2011

Someone asked today, “What is your dream?” My present dreaming is shaped by recent experiences as pastor and friend. As Easter Sunday approaches in the church I am pondering new life.
Reading news headlines; DOMA, DADT, A Gay Man Beaten to Death near Philadelphia, and Proposition 8; I dream.
I dream a day when all see the denial of such rights as unjust. I dream a day when men and women, gay and straight sit down to civil discussion without condemnation to some kind of hell. I dream a day these headlines are seen as dead because new life of love and full inclusion blossoms, replacing hatred and bigotry.
I dream a day when my GLBT brothers and sisters are embraced as the grace-filled children of God they are, and their love for one another holds the same degree of esteem and right as the love between myself and the love of my life.
A civil rights issue that I dream one day lies in the past to teach us, “Never Again!” I pray those who know this love of justice for all will stand with me in our society and in our churches because I believe, “It’s Time.”