I do not know how many times in the past several months I have heard the phrase, "It seems like a split in our denomination is inevitable." Inevitable. This or that side is pushing their agenda too hard. To obey Christ in this area obviously means that we must disobey Christ in the area of church unity, because, of course, that is how God works. Do we really believe that?
When I was in college
in 2000, General Conference had a heated debate over the homosexuality
issue. I read about it in the local secular newspaper. As I sat at the
kitchen table staring that newspaper article, I said to my mother,
"Mom, I cannot be United Methodist anymore. It is not a decision,
really. It is just a reality. THIS is not me." My mom said, "But if
you leave the United Methodist Church, who will be left to give your
voice?" I thought a lot about that. If I left, the denomination would
still be called "church" before the world, and the world would associate
it and its positions strongly with Christ, whether for good or for ill.
The reality is that, like it or not, the church as a whole bears a strong witness to the world as a body. And a body that is divided - even if it is divided into sides that are faithful over here but unfaithful over there - this inevitably presents a very confusing and not particularly effective witness to the world.
believe in a God who can raise the dead. We trust that is so in the
lives of the broken, in the cities that are devastated, in nations
ruined by war. It is what we are called to do as Christians. And as
United Methodists, through Christ's strength we have excelled! We are
the first to respond to any devastation and the last to leave. But it
is inevitable that we are going to give up here? We stick with people
even when everyone else runs away. Will we abandon those who we each
believe are stuck in the prison of false theology to provide a quicker
fix? We are a part of international bodies that work for increasing
ecumenical unity within Christ's body worldwide. But we can't even
stick together ourselves? Wait, a church split is not who we are and it
is absolutely contrary what we believe about God's resurrection power
in Christ Jesus.
I am writing this for really one
reason - I want to ask you to pray. And, I know this is hard, but do
not pray that the United Methodist Church as a whole will be changed to
your position. Instead, whatever you believe, pray simply for our Lord
to "Break the lies regarding homosexuality in our church, in our nation,
and in our world and make the truth prevail!" Then praise God that God
can do this! And leave it at that in humility. Because, as James says
in his rather strong words about "conflicts and disputes among you...
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
Our New Jersey Annual Conference is Thursday-Saturday. Please be in prayer for us!