I wanted to continue to address questions about the future of the United Methodist Church and building a more inclusive church. Each week I’m responding to questions that were raised at our recent congregational meeting. Again, I share a reminder that the United Methodist Church will not make decisions on this until April, 2024. We still have a ways to go before our church makes any changes in its policies and rules.
Question: Did God not make all in his own image?
We are told in Genesis “ Then God said, Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;” (1:26). The Jewish and Christian faiths have understood that we are all made in the spiritual image of God, not a physical image. At the end of the creation story we read “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Gen. 1: 31). This is God’s approval and blessing upon all that has been created. Creation is full of variation, but God declared all of it to be good. I interpret that to mean the varieties of gender identities and sexual orientation. God loves diversity. That is clear throughout the Bible, but especially in the gospels, the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters that describe the many types of people drawn to Jesus and the early church.
We are told in I John 3.that “God is love,” (I John 4: 16) so to be made in the image of God is to be made in the image of love. That is a profound spiritual truth. Love is how God made us. Love is what God made us for. We reflect the image of God when we love. I John also says “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us” (4:12). Love is where God lives. When we are divided, when we hate or exclude people we are not practicing that quality of love. We are in fact doing the opposite.
Question: What is the position of the Global Methodist Church? I heard they are the conservative unit and the reason this decision is coming for the UMC is because our Conference is already ordaining LGBTQ persons?
Pastor Dave: The Global Methodist Church (GMC) formed last year and churches across the denomination are already joining (so far there have been no churches in our own Conference that have done this). They are a conservative group that will not allow for same-sex marriage in their churches or the ordination of gay or lesbian clergy. Many Annual Conferences (including our own) have already begun ordaining gay and lesbian folks, although the number is not large. Conferences in the West, Mid-west and the East have done so. These candidates for ministry must meet all of the theological and educational requirements by their Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to be eligible for ordination and must also be voted upon and approved by the clergy of their Conference.
Question: What is the purpose of the Church? This is the key. Mission work, congregational support. Judge ye that ye be not judged! This is how the church gets destroyed.
Pastor Dave: It is always good to ask about the purpose of the church, especially in this day and age. Our Book of Discipline says: “The mission of the UMC is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by proclaiming the good news of God’s grace and by exemplifying Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor. This mission is our grace-filled response to the Reign of God in the world announced by Jesus. In paragraph 140 “We recognize that God made all creation and saw that it was god. As a diverse people of God who bring special gifts and evidences of God’s grace to the unity of the Church and to society, we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to all persons. Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community, and the world; therefore, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination.
I would add that our mission work, our care for the congregation and concerns for justice in the world are essential elements of being the church, along with our worship and all that we do to form and grow faith in all who come.
Finally, I hope you will join us as we have our second congregational meeting on the subject of understanding the Bible and homosexuality.
In faith, Pastor Dave