I’ve spent some time at breakfast and waiting for our shuttle bus to take us to the airport to read what other progressive United Methodists are writing about the sad and hurtful events of the United Methodist General Conference this week in St. Louis. When I met one of our Rio Texas leaders and delegates at the airport and asked how she was doing, she acknowledged that she wasn’t in a good place, but also said that she needs time to pray and process what had happened.
We all need time to pray and process, but I don’t want to wait too long to decide how to respond. I appreciated Eric Folkerth’s blog post, which I read on Facebook. You can find it here: wheneftalks.com. Look for the entry titled: Methodism: Post-Mortem and Pre-Vitae. He argues that it is time to start a new denomination.
His analysis leaves little hope for progressives in what is now The United Methodist Church.
I wonder how my own local United Methodist Church will respond. I’m sure we will not change our outreach and love for our dear LGBTQIA members and friends, and our justice ministries. I’m eager to be in worship this Sunday and hear from our pastor and others.
I wonder how the Rio Texas Conference will respond to this event. I’m hoping that our delegation and our Bishop will call us together for sharing, discussion, prayer and worship. There are many in our annual conference who are hurt and discouraged by what has transpired. Perhaps together we can formulate a plan.
I wonder if another possibility is to align with the Western Jurisdiction. In the West, United Methodists have been performing same-sex marriages and ordaining gays and lesbians for many years. I had the opportunity last summer at the Love Everyone Born Conference to meet Bishop Karen Oliveto, a married, lesbian Bishop. If someone as spirit-filled as Bishop Oliveto cannot be a Bishop, no one can be a bishop. Yet, I suspect the UMC as it is now governed will not allow the Western Jurisdiction to long function as the UMC. If Eric Folkerth’s analysis is accurate, the UMC will continue on this destructive path. It will seek to dissolve the Western Jurisdiction and/or force its leadership to leave the denomination. I do not see any grace among the powers that prevailed at the General Conference.
So, where’s the hope? In our Christian brothers and sisters whom we love and who love us. In our local churches, where we find those brothers and sisters. In the ministry and worship and service that we share. In the God of Jesus Christ, who promises resurrection. We are not done. We still love God and love one another. There are so many gifted, beautiful, spirit-filled people among us who can lead us forward. Maybe we will not be United Methodists in the future. But we will be Methodist Christians! Our heritage of justice-loving people will not be denied and we will carry that heritage forward. We will do it together. Christian community is powerful and we have Christian community.