In 2021, I knelt before Bishop McAlilly and was ordained an Elder. I took vows to the rule of life, the journey, and the task of this calling of mine. I affirmed my beliefs and stepped out in faith in a time unlike one in our denominations history since prior to the American Civil War. The specter of schism and separation looming strong. And yet I was assured of God’s grace and hopeful for the new thing that would be birthed.
Many say that our denomination has already been in schism and perhaps it is. But it is the same Church where God called me, saved me, and loved me when I felt unlovable. I was taught God’s grace and love that reigned supreme in this world, even in the face of sin, brokenness, and pain. It is still the place where I have been loved and taught by pastors and friends like Gail Gaddie, John Bonson, Randy Cooper, Amanda Crice, Autura Eason-Williams, Joey Reed, and Joe Geary to name a few.
As Local Congregations vote to leave or stay many clergy will also do the same. My call remains to the United Methodist Church, its doctrine, its discipline, and its beloved congregations. I believe part of those same ordination vows that I have taken is to uphold the unity of the Church, and therefore I cannot nor will I ever endorse or advocate separation of any kind. I believe that is still consistent with scripture, and with the call that Jesus gives to His Body (the larger Church), “that they may be One.”
One of the most painful things I have encountered in this season is when individuals cannot see the one they disagree with as honestly striving to be faithful. I myself have struggled with this task, but if we are willing to do so, we will embody the same grace given to us from God. I have friends and even members of my own family who will leave or have already left for other denominations. I believe they are trying to follow Jesus, and I hope and pray that they see me in that light also.
We as United Methodists in our congregations have long held people together who disagree on this conversation (not to mention many others), and so why would we pursue echo chambers? How our LGBTQ siblings will see us, how parents or relatives of theirs will see us? Will we still be the welcoming place where we desire that all can belong and find Jesus? Or will we choose the easy path, to cast aside those who disagree with us? Will we divide ourselves like the political world around us? Or will we proclaim a more excellent way of unity without uniformity. I implore you, do not see those whom you disagree with as evil, or unfaithful. See one another as Children of God, saved by the death on the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ…JUST LIKE YOU. This, the authority of Scripture, the creeds of the Church, and the sacredness of every human being should be seen as things that unite us rather than divide. Perhaps if we take a path of humility and empathy rather than arrogance and self righteousness, we may find our witness strengthened by this especially in our community. All of us are seeking to be faithful, the best we know how, and I continue to believe that God will see that striving to be faithful as actual faithfulness. This is the United Methodist Church at its best, the United Methodist Church I believe in, and this is why I will remain in the United Methodist Church.
I leave you with this prayer from Thomas Merton:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.