Grace through Separation

I have been a member of the United Methodist Church my entire life. I am not one who started in Methodist Episcopal or United Brethren and then became UMC. Being born in 1979, I have been in the UMC for my whole life. And now that I am a pastor of this denomination, there is talk of splitting instead of uniting. How do I feel about that?

In all honesty, I am for offering grace through separation. I have to admit that I knew there were problems in the church when I learned General Conference of the UMC, the group who votes on what happens in the UMC, met and had such an argument over the topic of homosexuality a vote was called for to remind all of Romans 8:38-39, that “..nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I cannot remember the year or the exact vote results but I do remember it was not 100%. That is a problem.

What is a group to do when agreement cannot be reached? I do not see any other answer but to separate. Sometimes it is important to break apart to be healthier. I know I have had to do this in my relationships. When trust has been broken, when pain has been caused, when agreement cannot be reached, we often need to separate for a time.

But what about being united in Christ? Here is the reality. Each group that comes of this still loves Christ. Each group is still unconditionally loved by God. And each group will still be human. All will still make mistakes and still get the focus wrong. While, at the same time, we will also get the focus right. That is what it is to be human.

So, as the UMC moves towards General Conference 2020, my hope is that we can all prayerfully consider what it means to be in relationship together, even if we are apart.

My hope is that we can talk and share in a healthy way so we can each stand for what is important to each of us. Then I hope we can start to restore relationships that have been broken. Broken between the two. three, or four groups who will separate. Broken between the church and the world, because the church has been to inward focused to provide the guidance and hope the world so desperately needs. After all, we have a world who needs to know that nothing can separate them from the love of Christ.

And my biggest hope is that by separating, yet again, people who felt excluded and unloved will find a place to connect with God. After all, God isn’t just in one specific church or behind one particular view. God is in all places, at all times, in all ways. Yet, as people we often have trouble believing. We make God like us. But, God is not like us. God is bigger and sees more. God offers love more unconditionally. God is for all and for those things that we believe and God does not? I hope and pray God offers forgiveness. Why? Because I know I need it. How do I know? I am a human being who is doing my best, but I’m still imperfect. Thank you God, for your grace that guides us in the most unexpected ways. Amen.

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