One thing I must say about being a part of the United Methodist Church is that it is always an adventure! Some are exciting, invigorating and transforming and some adventures are challenging, troubling and transforming. The key word in that statement is transforming. We are a people who believe that the Lord is working diligently with his children, helping them to envision not only what is but what can be as well. The following is a letter from the annual conference concerning the recent election of our Bishop, the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto. Bishop Karen represents a great challenge and a new direction for the UMC; in her election, the Western Jurisdiction is taking a prophetic stance about who is set apart for the service of ministerial leadership. There are many who agree with this "leap of faith;" there are many who do not agree with her election and are challenging it based upon The Book of Discipline (our Church’s organizational principles). There will be a great deal of prayer and discussion about this issue and most likely there will be a few immediate decisions rendered. Patience will be required and I would like for us to remember a few things about discipleship that will be helpful in enduring the doubts and questions we might have about this circumstance.

1) United Methodism is a church historically grounded in diversity and revelation. United Methodists and their predecessor bodies are trailblazers in ordaining women, in social activism, and in fighting for social justice. The UMC has been on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement, the protests against violence and abuse, while also seeking solutions rather than simple generalizations about poverty, exclusion and prejudice. Our history is one of a voice for those who have little voice, a stance Jesus took regularly in the scriptures.

2) The nature of the faith community is shifting in culture and in practice. We all have heard the statistics; the loss of young people in the UMC, the struggle with worship styles and roles of pastors and leadership. I know when I grew up in the UMC, there sure as heck were no TV screens on the wall! We have added components to our worship that bring a conversation beyond just words, but through images and sounds. Yes, Jesus Christ is the same today and forever, but some of the hymns by some of our greatest hymn composers were excluded from church because they weren’t “sacred” enough. God is not afraid of change; neither should we be afraid of it.


3) Finally, the greatest gift of United Methodism is that it is a not a “confessional” church. We take vows to uphold the church in our prayers, our presence, and our service, but we do not demand adhering to a specific set of non-negotiable values. Our heart as a denomination has been mostly practical in faith expression; we make the world a better place by what we do rather than what we say. The quote, often attributed to John Wesley, is "Even if we cannot be of the same mind, let us be of the same heart." There are those in the UMC who do not believe in the Virgin Birth; but their commitment to helping the poor and broken is just as valid as the person who does believe in the Virgin Birth. In essentials we seek a unity, but in the discussion and exploration of matters of faith and discipleship we allow liberty and charity.

It is easy to allow our emotions to intrude on our decision-making; we can respond to our personal positions as those who defend and reject rather than those who are discerning and respecting the power of conversation. If it is more important to be right, then those without ears will close off the discussion. For those who listen, however, a decision about where “I stand” on this and other issues of faith will be made because of a heartfelt and prayerful examination of the issues. We need not come to the same conclusions, but we do have to share the common declaration that Jesus Christ has died for all and has called us to work together for his kingdom. If you wish to discuss any thoughts you may have about this topic, Rev. Buddy, Rev. Carolyn and I are at your service. Pray my fellow disciples; let us pray together and know that it is times like these that challenge us, sharpen us and transform us so that we may do the work of the Lord in this world, and in doing so, be the servants who bring the touch of Jesus Christ to the world.

See you in worship,
Rev. Michael



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