by Luke Edwards, Pastor of Boone UMC, King Street Campus
My personal reflections on the United Methodist General Conference:
Friends, it’s too early to tell what will happen to the United Methodist Church. We will know much more by Easter when the Judicial Council meets.
For those who do not know, the General Conference, the voting body of the denomination has approved a plan that tightens restrictions against the ordination of LGBTQI clergy and seeks to punish those who officiate same sex marriages. However, much of the legislation remains unconstitutional (in regards to the UMC Constitution).
As I reflect on the results I am sad. I am sad because my LGBTQI friends are hurting and questioning their worth because of the actions of my denomination. I am sad at the possibility of colleagues leaving who I’ve come to love.
King Street Church has adopted a very simple value over the past five years, “Everyone is welcome as you are, unless you become abusive.” Through this value, we’ve lived in beloved Christian community with…
folks who are straight,
folks who are LGBTQI,
folks who are White,
folks who are Black,
folks who are Hispanic,
folks with criminal records,
folks struggling with mental illness,
folks struggling with addiction,
folks who struggle socially,
folks who are Atheist,
folks who are Agnostic,
folks who are lifelong Christians,
folks who defy labels,
and many others.
As you can imagine community like this is messy and challenging, but it’s always beautiful. We laugh, we cry, we fight, we make up, we encourage, we challenge, we grow, and we walk this journey of life with one another and with Christ. Every one of us has worth and is made in the image of God. Our differences are always a gift, never a curse. I wish everyone could experience this kind of community. It changes you. Never again do I wish to live in a homogenous Christian community where my friends look and think just like me.
I long for a Church and a world transformed by the scandalous grace of Jesus Christ. I long for a Church far more concerned with seeking out and welcoming those who are missing from Christ’s table and far less concerned about the perceived shortcomings of others at the table. I long for a church that can affirm the image of God in everyone.
An LGBT friend told me yesterday, “I’m sad and I’m confused. I’m confused because United Methodists have been some of the most kind, affirming, loving, and supportive people I have known since living in Boone. They’ve helped me heal from trauma experienced elsewhere in the Church. Why is this happening to y’all?”
This among other things gives me hope. An institutional vote does not fully reflect the local realities of our churches. I will not give up on the United Methodist Church.
Lesslie Newbigin puts it well, “In the end, the witness of the Church in respect of public issues will depend more upon the day-to-day behavior of its members than on its official words and actions.”
So today and tomorrow and the next day I will continue to go to my friends who have been excluded by society and invite them into a loving community where they can experience the God who loves them more than they could ever imagine.