The Time Has Come: Church Needs to Be Different

Personal Reflection: June 2011 – a time of great angst coupled with great hope as I have struggled privately, professionally, theologically and spiritually to reconcile the gospel with the law of the church.

Easter renewal gave way to Pentecost action early in June as we welcomed new members, promoted Sunday School children and thanked their teachers and launched graduates with our blessing. The 2011 Annual Conference gathering was looming with all of it‘s business action, opportunities for worship and affirmations for those called to serve to be closely followed by the church trial of my colleague, Rev. Amy DeLong. We came and celebrated at the Table that Sunday and I was moved by the awareness of all that was before me – my questions, burden of concern and uncertainty regarding my own sense of pastoral integrity were heavy on my heart. “How can I lead these people to this Table of grace in a church that fails them?” I believe if it (the church) fails any one person or group it fails us all.

I believe in the gospel promise that Rob Bell uses to title his book, “Love Wins” and that as people of God who are United Methodists we are bound to journey along our valued spectrum [of belief] with grace and fluidity toward the fullness of God‘s love for all people, not bound by assumptions, fear and unjust action. We are to recognize our diversity as a strength that enhances the welcome of all people rather than only those who think, believe or act along one specific path. And that we live in unity through the Wesleyan sharing of our experience, reason, tradition and scriptural understanding.

Month‘s end brings with it more angst and more hope with the promise of more struggle into July and beyond. But, what I gained more certainly from this month is the need for you, my community of faith, to be near, to join me in conversation and perhaps even in the struggle for what it means for us to hear God‘s call in this place.

From “Call to Commitment”, Elizabeth O‘Connor writes, “The church is not going to be different until someone in it is different. God waits for each of us to hear, ‘Behold, I do a new thing—through you!’ The question is always: Can we open our lives so that the Holy Spirit may descend and new power break that we may be the kind of person around whom renewal begins?”

As we enter our fifth year together, I invite you into this emerging time for our church. Let us commit ourselves to conversation, study, planning and action that reflects our collective belief that, “love wins”.

Amy will be busily crafting language (in the coming year) to help clergy as we struggle, in covenant, to offer God‘s unconditional love to whomever is before us through ritual action that, at present, is administratively bound by outdated, unjust rules. I believe it is our time to be intentionally crafting our message of God‘s unconditional love for folks in our midst, neighborhood and beyond.

Your Administrative Council has taken a first step after seeing so many signatures on the ‘All Means All’ board by unanimously adopting words I offered in response to that Pentecost action sermon.

Friends, I confess that our denomination has challenged me to my core around my call, my willingness to remain in covenant as Ordained Clergy and my theologically understanding of God‘s love. A UM church in NYC, (yes, we are a connectional church) gave me great hope in the Body of Christ as it welcomed all, even me, a vacationing visitor, to fully participate in it‘s community worship. And so I come back to you. Here is where I am called to serve, for another year, and it is here that I believe God‘s Spirit will bring ‘a new thing’ through US for the good of ALL.

Let it be so.

Pastor Kelly