A Disciples Pastor’s Thoughts on General Conference

I have been watching the United Methodist General Conference in Portland (a lovely place UMCto gather)through Twitter, Facebook posts, and some incredibly thoughtful blogs. I have many United Methodist clergy friends, having graduated from a United Methodist seminary. I have Methodist friends, and my father and step-mother are active members of a United Methodist church. So, I have watched with interest.

I can only imagine what the delegates and most United Methodists are feeling. Their General Conference has seemed extremely painful for many. Conservatives, Moderates, and Progressives are struggling with what it means to be global church, especially when it comes to full rights and welcome for LGBTQ people. I applaud the brave clergy who have come out as gay or lesbian, knowing that it may cost them their livelihood.

I don’t want this to sound like a higher than mighty post from a Disciples of Christ pastor bragging about our open table and our welcome to all. We have had many difficult, painful discussions at our gatherings. We have said and done harmful things to the LGBTQ community.  I confess that we as Disciples still have work to do.

We have conservative, moderate, and progressive members across our movement.Heck,  in my congregation we have conservative, moderate, and progressive members. It’s a bit of a tricky dance to make it all work. It’s why I tell people that we are an open table church rather than another label one might use. We are all welcome. No matter what others have chosen to label us we each receive Christ’s love and grace through the power of a shared meal. Far be it from me to tell another (or God) who should and shouldn’t be welcome. After all, God has welcomed me. The very least I can do is to return the favor. This is what I so appreciate about the Disciples.

Things are changing in our culture and in the church. Old power structures which were run by and benefited the privileged few are going away.. This is causing people to act out in fear. We fear anything that would bring us out of old comfort zones.We fear what we don’t understand.

I believe that God always calls us forward, not back.  The neat lines and definitions by which we attempt to define God baffle me, as if we can control or determine who God loves and who God calls God’s child.

My prayers are with my United Methodist friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that the church may cause no one any more pain, rather it give the life abundant that Jesus promises. My prayer is that there are no winner or losers, rather a church unified by its love for God and all people.I pray that through the pain, we might trust that God is working to bring the fullness of life to the Church and to all people.

Grace and peace

A Conversation with My Kids about Red Ribbons, Car Accidents, and God

Here is the conversation my 8 year old and 5 year old had in the car the other day.Red Ribbon

5 year old: Why are there red ribbons on everyone’s mailbox?

8 year old: They are there to support the family on the girl that died in the car crash.

Whoa. This was not the conversation I was expecting (nor prepared for) on the car ride.

A few weeks ago, four UGA students lost their lives in a tragic car accident. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder about the goodness of God and where God is in moments like this. One of the students, Halle Scott, was from Dunwoody and went to Dunwoody High School which is right down the street from us. In support of her family, many in the community have tied red ribbons around their mailboxes. Red, because it is one of the school colors of both DHS and UGA.

5 year old: Why did the girl die in the car crash? Am i going to die in a car crash?

8 year old: I don’t know. Daddy, why did God allow the girl to  die in the car crash?

It’s at this point that I am desperate to turn up the radio as loud as possible. Please, where is Taylor Swift blaring “Shake it Off” when you need her?

I earn a living walking people through difficult questions such as these. I don’t always know what to say. I mostly sit, listen, and wonder with folks while reminding them that God’s will is always for life and that in difficult times God’s heart is the first to break.

For some reason with children, especially my own children, the ones who think I know all the answers, its different. Kids are usually more honest that adults and their questions are more raw. They also keep asking questions.

5 year old: God allows people to die in car crashes?

8 year old: That’s what I just asked Daddy? He hasn’t answered!

Pressure. We have taught our kids since day one that God is a God of love, that God is a good God who wants the best of all of us. We have taught them that in God’s eyes, all people are equal and beloved. We have taught them that God is with them, no matter what. For whatever reason, in this moment, nothing is coming out of my mouth.The evidence might seem to present something different. How do I deal with this? Where is Taylor Swift when you need her most?

5 year old: God loves those girls. God wouldn’t allow them to have a car crash

8 year old: God probably cried first and is the most sad out of anyone

5 year old: I bet God tied a red ribbon around his mailbox

8 year old: God will help their families feel better

Out of the mouth of babes. Jesus just may have been on to something when he told us that to truly understand who God is, we need to be more like children. For me, I feel blessed by the reminder.

Grace and peace

 

 

Don’t Be Cruel

Arguing
Don’t be cruel…to a heart that’s true.

Those words from Cheap Trick (and Elvis before) ring in my ears as I watch the morning news. They resonate as I read Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. They hurt my heart as I overhear the way we to talk and about one another. In short, we as a culture have become cruel to each other.

I was watching Ted Cruz confront a Trump supporter in Indiana. I felt bad for Ted Cruz. Believe me, I am no fan of Cruz’s policies, but it seemed like he was trying to have an actual conversation with someone who supports a different candidate. As Cruz was going into Harvard debate mode, the man kept yelling back “Lying Ted”, “Where is your Goldman Sachs jacket”, “Lying Ted”, “Trump is going to kick your you know what”

Who talks to a candidate for President like that?

In fact, who talks to another human being that way?

Oh, right, we do apparently. Remember when all candidates (and Presidents), regardless of party affiliation were respected.Not to mention some of the racist comments aimed at Malia Obama after her choice of Harvard following a gap year were revealed.

I’ve also seen this cruel spirit  in conversations about bathrooms. People who are working to live an authentic life (which is often a painful process) are having their basic human dignity stripped away through words and actions. It’s okay to disagree with another and its even okay to simply not see something the way another does, but it doesn’t mean you should strip away another’s dignity in the process.

When did we become so cruel? Often the cruelty is made worse because it is offered in the name of Christianity. Try as I might, I can’t find any stories of Jesus stripping away someone’s dignity or humanity. I only see Jesus lifting another’s humanity, giving and protecting human dignity.

If we as a culture have lost the ability to see another’s humanity, our shared brokenness, and the enormous power of restoration we each possess for the other, then that will slowly (and painfully) be the end of us.

We’ve got to step up and stop falling into the trap of cynicism, bitterness, anger, fear, and hopelessness. God has created us better than this.Jesus promised that all things would be renewed and Paul challenged us that we are to do the work of reconciliation.

Something better will arise out of this time because God has made us better than this. It starts with me. It starts with you. Imagine what would happen if we spent our time lifting another and reminding each other of our sacred dignity and worth. We each have that power.

I think I will put on some Cheap Trick (not an Elvis fan) and remember Don’t Be Cruel.