I am a United Methodist Pastor. And today it is more difficult to be a moderate (some would call me a centrist) in our denomination.
This week included a major international conference of United Methodist delegates called into session in St. Louis to consider A WAY FORWARD for the denomination regarding the church laws on human sexuality. A very close vote yielded legislation for the larger UMC connection that keeps current language in our Book of Discipline. It prohibits same gender weddings in UM churches and prohibits ordination of LGBTQIA+ persons.
Some would now consider the vote to have settled the matter. In fact, the vote 53% - 47%, most likely makes life in the connection very uncertain for the foreseeable future.
I feel the pain of friends and colleagues, of parishioners, who had hoped that UMC legislation would allow more contextual and regional interpretation of this issue. In other words, many hoped for a solution of BOTH / AND. That solution would have allowed progressive churches and pastors to move forward with same gender church weddings and progressive annual conferences to approve ordination of LGBTQIA+ persons into the clergy of the UMC. At the same time, traditionalist churches and pastors in the USA and overseas could retain the practice of heterosexual marriage and ordination according to their interpretation of scripture.
I must admit. I am a pragmatist. While loyal to the denomination and its legislative process and its Book of Discipline, I also believe that we can find ways to seek BOTH / AND instead of EITHER / OR. I wait to see what other leading centrists decide to do in light of the UMC General Conference of 2019.
My efforts to prepare for this Sunday and preaching on the Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9:28-36) have been difficult. I long to make the mountain-top journey with Jesus and to experience the brilliance of the glory of God. And yet, I know that the work of my calling leads me back down the mountain into the valleys and level ground of life in a local community.
I pray that God's love and mercy shall continue to travel in all directions and impact all of God's people. And I ask you to be kind to one another in the coming days.
Grace and Peace
Along the Way
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend