Dear Lord, I hate crying! Especially in front of hundreds of people, I hate crying. I go home and for days I have what Brene’ Brown calls “a vulnerability hangover.” They are awful. But years ago, Lord, I promised you that if you would help me to not become crass and crusty about ministry, I would continue to give my heart away. I would even be willing to hurt and cry for the people I serve. So, in that case God, thank you for the gift of tears – even in front of all those people.
For those of you who saw my tears while preaching on Sunday, February 17th, please know they were not because I am afraid of the future, or a myriad of other things one might consider. Simply stated, my tears were tears of grief.
Church membership for an ordained elder does not reside with the local congregation. Our church membership is with the larger annual conference. My tears of grief were because the place where I was ordained deacon and then elder; the place where MY church membership has been held for over 25 years will be different after February 27th than we are today. There is no way around that. To vote for no change, will be to change.
The United Methodist Church is a deep, deep love of mine. I love her in all her brokenness and in all her glory. My tears were not so much for our local congregation – I think St. Barnabas will be just fine! After General Conference 2019, we will still have church, be The Church, and be transformed through the grace of God we live out as Church together.
John Wesley (the unintentional initiator of the People Called Methodist) got the theology right. God loves us before we are even born. When we recognize God loves us just as we are, we turn and offer our hand of relationship back to God. We then spend the remainder of our lives taking intentional steps to live as Jesus lived – by loving others. It is the love of God we know through Jesus, who is the Christ; through the power of the Holy Spirit, that our lives are transformed into disciples. There is not one word in Wesley’s “Way of Salvation” about gender, or race, or even sexuality. Wesley articulated a theology of salvation that is grounded in God – not in human beings. I find that a very, very good thing.
The current debate in the UMC on human sexuality is grounded in human beings. The debate is grounded in OUR understanding, in OUR interpretation, in OUR behavior. The debate is about what “I want,” what “I believe,” what “I think.” It is a very similar debate that the Methodist Church and the renditions before her had about race and about gender. The debate is about who is allowed in and who is kept out. It doesn’t take a vote of General Conference to make that decision. Church members make that clear every Sunday by the way they greet (or don’t) those who are “other.”
I will be blogging from St. Louis. If you would like to receive those notes please go to www.gingerbassford.org to sign up. I leave on Friday, February 23rd. There is a day-long prayer vigil on the 24th. GC2019 starts on Sunday, February 25th and ends on Tuesday, February 27th. I’ll be home late on Wednesday the 28th.