An Open Letter To United Methodist Progressives And Centrists

My dear Sister and Brother Centrists and Progressives in the United Methodist Church,

I do not know if you will read this or not. But sometimes…sometimes the heart must speak. I will be honest with you upfront: I am first and foremost, a servant in the Kingdom of God. This submission to the Rule of God is absolute and unconditional; though at times I am rebellious and disobedient. I am secondly, an Orthodox Methodist, a label that has been put upon me, yet I wear it with humility and honor. Knowing this about me, you are now free to stop reading and make up your mind about me, without ever knowing what I will say. Based upon past behavior, I will not be surprised if some of you do just that; but for you who are still reading, please allow me the grace you say you so deeply believe in, be given to me as well.

I have a question ONLY for Centrists and Progressives.

“Why should I remain in the United Methodist Church, a church I have loved, supported and serve in the name of God’s Kingdom, when so many of you hate me?”

 I am sincere in this question. I acknowledge, with much shame as a follower of Jesus, that some who say they follow Jesus have said and continue to say hurtful and hateful things at the LBGTQIA community. And to my United Methodist sisters and brothers who have said those things, please, go join the Westboro Baptist Church. If you live too far away, start a local chapter. I’m sure they would be glad to become a multi-campus church.

Allow me to also say to my Sisters and Brothers who are Centrists and Progressives in the United Methodist Church, what I am about to say is not a blanket, “one-size-fits-all” comments. Some of you share the love and grace professed to even those who do not agree with you theologically. And to you who practice what you preach, please accept my gratitude for your consistency.

Alas, not all show the love and grace they profess. Rev. Tom Berlin has compared me, and my sisters and brothers in Christ, to a virus. More specifically, an Ebola Virus. Furthermore Rev. Berlin, under the banner of love and grace, you said that unless the UMC credentials the LBGTQIA members, then my credentials should be removed. You see, Rev. Berlin, I have been divorced…and remarried. Sir, you are right, myself and the gay community do share something in common. We are sinners. My sin isn’t any worse than any other sin. Sinners are equal at the foot of the cross.

Rev. Berlin, I have confessed my sin of divorce (along with several other sins). This means I agree with God, that it is sin in my life. I have also repented. I have turned away from ever divorcing again. And I turned to the only place I knew I would find grace–at the feet of Jesus. He forgave me. I even went through a process with my annual conference who held me accountable to confession and repentance. And now, Rev. Berlin, though I have confessed, repented and turned back to follow God with all my heart, you say I am unfit (after all, that’s what taking away my credentials because of divorce means) even though I’ve gone through God’s process for sinners, and the church’s process to continue in ministry. Though I and my LBGTQIA sisters and brothers share the bond of sin, I have admitted my sin, while the LBGTQIA refuse such an acknowledgement. See, Rev. Berlin, though we are the same–we are different in how we choose to deal with whatever that sin may be. Because I choose to admit it, I’m mean and unloving? Really?

And to Rev. Adam Hamilton, you choose to belittle me and those like me. You consistently espoused hate at us in St. Louis. And afterwards, your accusations continue to flow. You say I am homophobic (though I have friends who are gay). You say I treat them like second-class citizens (though I cried with someone who lost their partner, because we are friends).

You say I am refusing them grace (though I have served them Holy Communion and will continue to do so). You insist that I am full of hate because I choose to believe the Truth about marriage. That I am hateful because I cannot embrace a theory that isn’t even accepted in the behavioral science community. I am accused of not caring, all because I believe and am convinced that the Bible clearly defines marriage as a man and a woman. Rev. Hamilton, you say that I am not open to the Holy Spirit because I believe in the Biblical teachings on sexual ethics. I did not realize that God had given up the right to judge of my heart and given it to you.

I did not watch all of the 2019 General Conference, but I did watch a lot of it. I’ve also read the blogs, read the Tweets, and listened to the videos. After it all, I am left with only one conclusion: I am hated by the majority of United Methodists in my own country; this according to Rev. Hamilton. Even my former Bishop, Will Willimon, says that I am the problem–because I am over 40 years old.

So, my Centrist and Progressive Sisters and Brothers in Christ, I will ask you again:

“Why should I remain in the United Methodist Church, a church I have loved, supported and serve in the name of God’s Kingdom, when so many of you hate me?”

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I Just Don’t Feel Like It Today or “It’s The Best I Can Do Right Now.”

For decades now, in my teaching and preaching I advocate that we should go to worship God even if we don’t feel like it.  “It is in the times we don’t feel like worshiping that we need to worship the most.”  Yep, that’s what this preacher said.  Well, to be honest, this morning I did not want to worship God in my private time of worship because, well, I just didn’t feel like it.  And to be even brutally honest, I don’t know that I feel like it right now.

I could blame this feeling right now on the fact I had just stacked 2 large stacks of firewood that had fallen over.  But the reasons go much deeper, and I am not going to bore you with all the details of what is going on inside me in this time.  If I did, I would sound like a whiner, and whiners are a pitiful and pathetic lot.  So I’m just not going there and be like “them”.  (I think I just heard some of you readers breathe a sigh of relief!)

To give you a view of my early morning disciplined habit, go back to a previous blog called Assumptions.  This morning I filled up my coffee cup (Praise God who inspired that native so long ago who roasted, grounded, and poured hot water through those beans!), put in my earbuds, looked at my Spotify app, and honestly, I just didn’t want to start it.  But then I remembered that crazy preacher who said, “It is in the times we don’t feel like worshiping that we need to worship the most.”  Oh, well; time to practice what I preach.  If I don’t, I am just another Churchian or Tenured Pew Sitter.  If I ever become one of them, I hope someone still loves me enough to give me a good ol’ Leroy Jethro Gibbs slap on the back of the head.

Now, did my mind and attitude change instantly?  Absolutely.  NOT!  But I pushed through it, keeping my focus on God.  Now, was this the best way to worship God?  Absolutely NOT!  Jesus said it’s about worshiping in Spirit and in Truth.  I was worshiping truthfully.  I just didn’t feel like it, but I did it anyway.  Somehow I think that God is pleased with my worship this morning, though it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination, my best offering.  But, it reflects where I am, much like David reflected in Psalm 13:1-2 (NLT)

Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Had God forgotten David?  Had God been looking the other way, His face turned away from David?  Has God forgotten Randy?  Is God looking the other way, His face turned away from Randy?  The answer to all 4 questions is…..NO!  NO!  NO!  NO! no-no But it sure does feel like it, and David must have felt it to.  Otherwise, why did he write such a worship song?  And for you who may also be struggling with mine and David’s feelings, the answer for you is EMPHATICALLY, NO!  He hasn’t forgotten us and He hasn’t turned away from us.

Somehow this morning, a morning I am really struggling, that perhaps God is more pleased with this act of reluctant worship than any other act of worship I have offered since I began this spiritual discipline.  HE certainly deserves better, but I now believe that God is pleased with my “It’s the best I can do right now” worship.  What?  Oh, I just heard some Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters say, “You’re wrong, wrong, wrong!  Give me a Bible verse to back up your blasphemous claim.”  OK Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters, remember that you asked for it.

In Luke 18:9-14 you will find the story Jesus told of a Pharisee and a Tax Collector who went to encounter God in the Temple.  The Pharisee was full of himself and his perceived goodness and made the point he wasn’t like that Tax Collector.  The Pharisee was NOT honest.  On the other hand, the Tax Collector was brutally honest.  He presented himself to God in worship as he really was–a sinner!  Gee whiz, he didn’t even worship in the right position.  His head was down when it should have been up.  And in response to these 2 acts of worship (one correct in form but not in substance; the other wrong in form but correct in substance), Jesus says this:  “I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Verse 14)

And in this act painfully honest worship, this is what The Holy Spirit taught me and said to me:  “Sing it until you believe it!”  Here is the song that was coming through my earbuds in this epiphany:  10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman.  So, I am going to keep on singing it until I believe it!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way God loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!

 

Chinwag, Is That So Bad? Yeah It Is!

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Since the ripe old age of 18, I have been serving local congregations.  I started out as filling in as their “preacher” and finally reached the stage of “ordination to Word, Sacrament and Administration.”  I am now 61 and one thing I have noticed that is consistent in every place I have served, are those who think that chinwag is a spiritual gift that should be exercised frequently and with great authority.  However, those who exercise this alleged “gift” with skill and expertise that mirrors the skill of a diamond cutter are those who feign an albeit false, image of humility.

Perhaps I should give you the definition of this word “chinwag”.  One definition of this word is to have a casual conversation.  But the word means more that just a casual chit-chat.  According to Dictionary.Com as a noun it means “an idle chat; gossiping” and as a verb it means “to chat idly; gossip”.  Right now I started thinking about a cultural phenomenon known as “fake news”.  Many a blog has been written about fake news as if it is something new.  Unfortunately it has been around a long time, even in the church.

The Enemy, OUR enemy as real Followers of Jesus, knows he cannot defeat his “enemy”.  He lost when his enemy became human, he lost in the wilderness temptations, he lost on that Cross, and his ultimate defeat came from that cemetery.  So he has turned his attention on those who have had their status as Image Bearers restored and their FOB (Forward Operating Bases), set up in what he thinks is his territory.  These Forward Operating Bases are also known as local churches.

To weaken the Forward Operating Bases, our enemy gets willing participants to focus their thoughts and energy inwardly.  The result is they lose sight of our real enemy and turn our sisters and brothers in arms into an imaginary enemy.  And the primary weapon used is chinwag–gossip.  Our enemy is deceiving many into believing that it’s best to believe the worst about people.  It is not always easy to build strong relationships because often it requires time and energy–time and energy that some are unwilling to expend.  So they end up spreading what they hear and assumptions about what they hear.

I know for fact that in one FOB some called the Vision Committee the DIvision Committee.  Those words, that term, created far more damage for the future of the FOB than they realize.  And that’s the thing, “far more than they realize”.  We need to take the time to consider the impact of our words.  And we need to consider using better words in ways that are far better at building up rather than tearing down.  Consider the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:29 and from the God’s Word Translation, it goes like this:

 Don’t say anything that would hurt another person. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  One of the biggest lies taught to kids goes like this:  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.”  Words do harm and hurt far more and the injury it causes takes far longer to heal than any broken bone.  Engaging is any conversation that is meant to belittle, harm or simply not founded on the truth opens the door for the enemy to do even more harmful work against The Kingdoms FOB.

It is far better to engage in conversations WITH people than to chinwag ABOUT people.  It turns one into a petty minded obstructionist and yet another tool and weapon for the enemy.  The enemy already has way too many weapons, so do not become another one for him.  Let your words be words that build others up.  After all, those last words of Jesus from the Cross, continues to build up people that people who chinwag try to destroy.  #YourWordsMatter!

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him.  By the way, HE is never glorified nor honored in your chinwag.

 

 

Hurt By The Church?

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This is a real issue and a real problem for those who have been hurt; for churches who inflicted the pain; and for churches who are trying to be faithful to the work of The Kingdom Of God who are ignored by those who have been hurt.  In October of 2015 Jonathan Hollingworth wrote a great piece that I offer for your reading.  Jonathan says it much better than I can.  Here is the link:  What Not To Say To Someone Who’s Been Hurt By The Church  And remember:

Love God with all your heart.  Love others the way Jesus loves you.  And make sure all the glory goes to Him!