May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.
Perhaps fittingly, I write this to you, my beloved church, on a plane from St Louis bouncing through turbulence on my way home.
The recently held called session of the United Methodist Church has concluded. This global gathering of United Methodist was convened in the hope that the church might find a way forward from decades of intense debate and division regarding the nature of the church’s ministry with, for, and of LBGTQ+ people.
What was not up for a vote was the sacred worth of people. We believe everyone is a child of God, loved by God and invited into the redemptive relationship with Jesus won on the cross and in the resurrection. Also not up for a vote, was whether people who identify with non–traditional sexualities or identities are welcome in our community: they are welcome in our pews, in our ministries and at Jesus’ table.
Several different proposals were constructed and considered in the lead up to the voting in St Louis. The General Conference voted to pass what is referred to as the Traditional Plan. This plan reaffirmed our historic position that Christian marriage is between a man and a woman. It maintained the church’s stance that same gender weddings may not occur in United Methodist Church buildings and may not be performed by United Methodist clergy. It further restated that the United Methodist Church will not ordain as clergy people who are ‘self–avowed practicing homosexuals’. That language can sound awkward, but it is designed to make clear that orientation does not keep candidates from being ordained, behavior does.
Many of you will be relieved to hear this and others will be hurt, sad or angry. Emotions and commitments around these issues go deep for us all. If you followed any of the proceedings at St Louis, then you saw all too clearly how strained the bonds of community can become when firm convictions become conflict.
I am convinced that University remains a place with the capacity to build bridges. This is why we are here.
We have bridges to build to Christ.
We have good news to proclaim. There are people who will wake up next door to us who are strangers to hope, who have not known the freedom of God’s forgiveness. There are those, whoever they are and whatever they have done, that don’t know God’s love for them is bigger and better than they have yet imagined. We have the treasure of scripture to explore together and share with our neighbors.
We have bridges to build to community.
We have individuals with special needs and families who must be valued and celebrated as unique gifts to God’s community. We have a world around us that desperately needs us to model a community that can disagree and still love each other. We have small groups to establish and foster where the truth about our lives can be told and God’s grace can transform us. We have more food to eat together, laughs and tears to share.
We have bridges to build to compassion.
We have kids who live near to the shadow of our steeple who are hungry and need to be fed. We have students in our community who are one tutor or mentor away from a very different future. We have kids in foster care, social workers and families who deserve all that we can do to see them safe, loved and supported. There is a stigma surrounding mental health issues that often prevents grace from pouring in to hearts, lives and homes. All around us people and their families are struggling with addiction, and God calls us to walk with them, support them and love them.
The calling of God on the people of University has never been more vital. There may be some turbulence along the journey, but we have work to do and bridges to build to Christ, community and compassion.
If you wish to speak to me about this let my amazing administrative assistant Ruth Towers know, and she will schedule some time for us to connect.