Mediation, Protocol, Grace, and Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church

So, it’s not often that the United Methodist Church makes national and local news. However, you or your friends may have read or seen something over the weekend that raised some questions for you. I want to make sure that you are informed and can respond well to people who bring up the topic.

On Friday, the Council of Bishops shared a press release – United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives & Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation – which included a document that sought to resolve some of our denomination’s differences and would result in a split of the global United Methodist Church

I encourage you to take a look at the original document – Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation (PDF) as well as the Frequently Asked Questions. I find this document noteworthy because it was unanimously agreed upon by persons from across the theological spectrum. While some news reports may lead you to believe that this is already approved, it is not. The United Methodist Church makes decisions as a global denomination every four years at a meeting called General Conference. This document will lead to one of many proposals that will come before the General Conference, which meets this May in Minnesota.

For me, it is clear to me that we must welcome all people into the entire life of the church. I want to serve in a church that does not have any restrictions or limitations for LGBTQ persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I also want to live in a church in which there is space for people who disagree. While I am not excited about an amicable separation, I believe that what is proposed by the protocol may be the best option for our denomination at this time. I trust that God’s Holy Spirit continues to help individuals and organizations make progress toward the perfect love of God and neighbor.

I have had conversations with people connected with Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church, who are both more progressive and more traditional regarding these questions. There are people with theological differences present each Sunday in worship. Being able to worship and seek God together is part of what I love about this church. We are trying to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who are committed to the scriptures and devoted to our tradition as Methodists. We desire to be a diverse community of faith, where God’s love is in action.

One of our all-church goals this year is to implement a series of educational and engagement activities to inform the congregation regarding LGBTQ issues and proposals coming before the UMC at the 2020 General Conference so that we can clarify the congregation’s position and values regarding inclusion. With that in mind, I want to make three invitations to you.

First, starting Sunday morning, February 16, we are offering a study called Faithful and Inclusive – the Bible, Sexuality, and The United Methodist Church. This course provides a perspective on understanding how United Methodists can be both obedient to God’s Word and fully welcoming to LGBTQ persons in the church. This six-session resource has been designed for participants to develop their perspectives on the Bible’s passages related to homosexuality. We will be going through this study as a large group with small group discussions. If your Sunday School class would like to pause during these weeks to be part of the study, I invite you to do so. If you are not part of a Sunday school class and would like to be part of the study, I invite you to do so.

Second, I encourage you to read the mediation protocol [link]. This document is the actual product of the mediation process. You can download a copy here or pick up a printed copy at the church.

Finally, I encourage you to be generous and kind with each other – both those with whom you agree and those with whom you disagree.

Would you like to be part of the conversation at Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church to clarify our congregation’s position and values regarding inclusion? Do you have more questions or concerns? I would be glad to share a conversation with you. You can call the church or email me directly at andrew@swumc.org to share your interest in helping our congregation make progress.

Church = Spiritual Formation

I believe that the primary role of the church is spiritual formation.

Through worship, teaching, classes, serving, conversation, care, accountability and many other specifics the faith community that is the church is about forming the souls closer to the image of God. This journey of sanctification moves us closer toward perfect love of God and neighbor.

In Matthew 28, Jesus sends the disciples to:

  • go
  • make disciples
  • baptize
  • teach

All part of spiritual formation.

Do you agree? Why or why not?

My Vision for the United Methodist Church

I have been thinking a lot about the United Methodist Church, including the Top 5 Reasons I Stay in The United Methodist Church earlier in the week.

My vision for the United Methodist Church is that:

  • Every church or charge will have at least one new member join by profession of faith each year.
  • United Methodists will be known in their community by the practice of their faith and care for their neighbors.
  • Every church or charge that needs to close will do so graciously and generously.
  • Each United Methodist will take seriously the call to offer Christ to those who have not received the good news.
  • Each United Methodist will be committed to the denomination only to the extent that it is effective for making disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • No United Methodist will hold so tightly to the past as to prevent following God’s active spirit.

Check back tomorrow for ideas about how this might happen and feel free to share your vision.

Why were the disciples afraid to ask him when they did not understand?

I have had the opportunity to lead the Builders Sunday Morning Small Group for three weeks studying the gospel according to Mark. This question was from a breakout group studying Mark 8:31-9:1, 9:30-32 and 10:32.34.

Another good question about fear. I could see the disciples feeling as if they should understand what Jesus was teaching them. I know that my response when I do not know what is going on is sometimes to pretend like I do or hope that I will figure it out. Another member of the class suggested later that perhaps the disciples thought that they would have time to figure out what Jesus really meant by his predictions of death.

What do you think?

You can find previous responses to questions coming from this class here:

Had the disciples heard of Jesus before?

I have had the opportunity to lead the Builders Sunday Morning Small Group for three weeks studying the gospel according to Mark. This question was shared during our time together.

When Jesus called the first disciples, had they heard of him before? Did they have any knowledge of this man who was asking them to leave their livelihood, family and friends and follow him?

This is a great question and one which I have not previously considered. I do not read a clear response one way or the other in the text of Mark. (Perhaps why this was a question in the first place)

I had never imagined the disciples having any previous knowledge about Jesus before he called them. It would make a little more sense why they would leave their nets and follow him if they had heard of him before. However, as a class member proposed, it may be that Jesus presence, tone, power and the work of the Holy Spirit was what compelled the disciples to follow – not just the words.

I think that whether the disciples had hard of Jesus before depends on how you decide to interpret this passage:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15, TNIV)

How far had Jesus teaching spread? How long had he been proclaiming the good news of God before encountering those who would become his disciples? Was Jesus well known before he began healing?

What do you think? How would you respond to this question?

Activity of the Son

I see the Father and the Holy Spirit as still active but just see the Son as by God’s side. Can you explain how the three are still active today? Is the son’s role over after his death and resurrection?

I believe that God is very active in the world in many different ways and most importantly in bringing God’s kingdom into reality. As to the activity of each of the three persons of the Trinity see Immanent and Economic Trinity.

The Son’s role is not over after death and resurrection. I asked my wife, Nicole, about this and she reminded me that anywhere we see resurrection the power of Jesus Christ is at work in the world. At the death of a loved one, the power of Christ is active in bringing hope that this life is not all there is. When a middle age person decides that her or his life is headed in the wrong direction and makes drastic changes toward living as a disciple, Christ is drawing the person into relationship.

I think that the Son’s activity today may also be thought about in Jesus’ final words in the gospel according to Matthew:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20, TNIV

All authority on heaven and on earth have been given to the Son and this is why we are sent to make disciples, baptize and teach. Not only that, but Jesus promises presence with us until the end of time.

This question came out of a young adult small group taster last Sunday morning in which I taught about the question “What is the Trinity?”