by Rev. Mike Baughman
There is a West African symbol called the Andinkra. It’s a Siamese crocodile with two heads and two tails. It looks an awful lot like a cross. The story goes that the two heads of this one organism are prone to snapping at one another. Because they compete for food and resources, sometimes they go hungry. It is easy for them to forget that they share the same stomach.
The One Church Model represents our best effort to recognize that all Methodists share from the same stomach. When one of us are nourished, we are all nourished. When one of us starves, we all starve. When one is poisoned, we are all poisoned. We share the same stomach.
We remain committed to One Church work. The dream of a united church employing the full spectrum of human expression and ministry remains alive as long as Wesley’s spirit remains alive. The spirit that licensed women to preach… the spirit that called for unity and not uniformity… the spirit that was brave enough to became more vile for the sake of the gospel… the catholic spirit that inspired John Wesley to rally disparate theological convictions and practices around a shared mission to reform the nation and spread scriptural holiness throughout the land. That will be our work. Together.
Our traditional congregations build up and bear the gospel to communities who are not likely to connect with our open and affirming congregations. They model a faithfulness necessary to sustain the body in a world filled with a constant barrage of negativity regarding religious belief. Our open and affirming congregations build up and bear the gospel to communities hungry to know they need not choose between their faith and fundamental, God-given identities. God’s evangelistic vision for the world is bigger than the sight of any one lens on human sexuality.
Let us remind not only ourselves of our shared potential but also the rest of the world. As a global denomination, we are greater than our division. We will not dismiss our traditional colleagues’ call. We will not leave our LGBTQ brothers and sisters or their gifts along the side of the road. In the face of an increasingly partisan world, defined by warring madness between competing ideologies, let us witness to the power of Christ to hold us together.
This is true to our story. We are a church formed not from doctrinal schism, but from missional necessity to be in ministry. Missional necessity led Susanna Wesley to take the mantle of unofficial church leadership when her husband was in prison. Missional necessity led John Wesley to license Sarah Crosby. Missional necessity led John Wesley to ordain Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury to organize the Methodist Church in 1784. Doctrinal division did not lead to the birth of the United Methodist church and it will not lead to our renewal.
There is an understandable temptation to cut off the parts of our body that offend us. It is easy to think that it will make us better, yet Paul reminds us that we need one another. Phantom pain will remain in the absence of those with whom we disagree. As iron sharpens iron, so does one to another.
So between now and Minneapolis, let us sharpen one another.
Between now and Minneapolis, let us love one another.
Between now and Minneapolis, let us learn from one another and let us run the race that Christ has set before us.
February 2019 is not the end of our work, but a brave new beginning.
We share from the same stomach.