Invitation to Prayer

A church trial begins today.  Amy De Long, one of our pastors, performed a same-sex marriage and openly proclaimed her personal relationship with a female partner.  She did so in the context of a church that has not accepted either condition as “appropriate” of a United Methodist clergy-person.  And so we move forward with a church trial to decide her professional (but not her vocational) future.  Amy has done what she believes in her heart and conscience is the right and just thing to do.  Many agree with her; many do not.  But setting aside the “issues” for a moment, a child of God, a sister-in-Christ, and a member of the family of humankind is going through a stressful and excruciating process of having not only her conduct, but her very personhood judged by the church she feels called to serve.  I don’t care what an individual might feel about sexual orientation and the vagaries of human sexuality in general.  I care little at the moment about the legalism of the Book of Discipline and a church that runs its most important business by parliamentary procedure law rather than Spirit-filled grace.  What I care most about is that our Christian family is broken and that we are seeking ways to amputate limbs from our body.  I am saddened that we cannot openly and honestly state our disagreement and discomfort, then commit to finding a way through, together.  I have been praying regularly since last night and I will pray for grace, healing, harmony, kindness, mercy, justice, and generosity throughout the three days of trial.  I invite any and all who love God and hold hope for our church to pray as well.  This is not a time for posturing or debate; it is not a time to do further damage, but to ask that God’s grace might abound and be felt by all.

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25 replies

  1. Thank you Dan. Without weighing in as a pro or con, I join you in your focused concern and prayer for a UMC that can weather its conflicts and disagreements until a clearer consensus can be discerned. Thank you.

  2. I agree, let’s pray for scriptural clarity and spiritual righteousness to prevail. Last I checked, sin is sin. It is a deliberate act against God’s teaching and there is no way to deny that Homosexuality is sin. Titus is clear on what attributes a teacher, pastor or misisterial leader should possess – living in sin is a disqualifier. Living in sin is an diliberate act. I pray for Ms. DeLong as well. I pray that the love of Christ will show her the harm she is causing by trying to lead the Church away from Biblical values. I pray that the UMC will stand firm and properly uphold Church teachings, which are in line with scripture. This is not a condemnation of Ms. DeLong, it is a judgement of her disregard for scriptural integrity and church law.

    • I am simply sad that our church does not condemn judmentalism and the picking and choosing of which sins to take seriously. Self-righteousness is going to kill us quicker than any other practice we fear. Praying for one another is so much more grace filled than praying about those with whom we disagree.

      • Dan – We are called to fight against sin. Love the sinner and hate the sin. That is what I am talking about. I make no judgment of Ms. DeLong. Thankfully, that task is reserved for God and God alone. However, scripture tells me to love my neighbor. If my neighbor is involved in self-destructive behavior, the only loving response is to try and stop them. If they insist that I participate in or condone that destructive behavior, I have the duty to stand up against that action. We have all sinned and there is no degree that separates your sin from mine or my sin from Ms. DeLong’s. The difference is I do not accept my sin and I do not ask you as my brother in Christ to condone it. I will also not be so bold as to ask the Church to disregard Scripture because it impinges on my rationalization of my sin. What saddens me is that so many of our brethren in Christ seem to have forgotten how to discern sin from worldly rationalization. This discernment of the Church is my prayer. I am not concerned about the sensibilities of those who insist on forcing the acceptance of false teachings. The Grace of God does not cover such actions. Grace is extended to those that seek to walk in his way and are repentant – not those who openly mock him. I pray that Ms. DeLong and all others will turn from these actions, but I will not stand idly by and let the word of God be adulterated – that my friend would violate the Greatest Commandment.

  3. I read “Invitation to Prayer” from another dear friend, colleague in ministry, and amazing brother in Christ with whom I too share in praying for a sister in Christ whom I do not know, a colleague with whom I too have been in covenant relationship as a United Methodist clergy person, and one with whom I share in struggling with the “not so black and white, clear-cut, certainty” of our Book of Discipline.
    I find myself troubled by a denomination that is so authoritative and unique in proclaiming the grace and love of God in Jesus Christ for every person, and so quick to eliminate rather than find ways to restore and grow in relationship and understanding as we seek to discern and confer with each other and not just speak at each other.
    There is great distress in my soul for the denomination I love, in which I was raised, through which I was found to possess gifts and graces for ministry in the ordained clergy, and in which I gave 26 years of my life in devoted service to Christ, all the while struggling silently with an inner pain that grew over 41 years from childhood sexual abuse, rape. In the *sharing* of this burden with other colleagues who faced similar pain and battling lies within.
    I, like my sister in Christ found the leadership of the denomination I love to be those who were not interested in restoration, in reconciliation, in compassion, in redemption or in the grace we so vigorously preach. Rather, these leaders sought to rid the Church of a “problem,” instead of seeking out ways, doing everything possible to validate the brother in need. Sadly it appears we have become all too proficient at shooting our wounded and hurting sheep, rather than being those who tenderly shepherd our sheep, seeking them out and rejoicing when we can bring them home, rather than cutting their throats so they cannot bleat and leaving them cast aside.
    I too am praying for my sister in Christ!
    I too am praying for her partner in loving and committed relationship.
    I too am praying for her bishop, superintendent, and her Board of Ordained Ministry Committee on Investigation.
    I too am praying for the congregation in which she worships God alongside us.
    I too am praying for all those whose inner burdens are so great.
    I too am praying for those who witness the actions and decisions of the United Methodist Christians and then decide whether or not we truly are a denomination committed to “Open hearts, open minds, and open doors” as more than a campaign but as a verbiage we are passionate about living out.
    I too am praying that with my own sins and failings, I will be able to rest in the immeasurable grace of our God and not see my identity and worth tossed out with disregard, but rather validated as a child of God and a person of worth, and a person of credible ministry.
    I too am praying for the Church I so deeply love and I pray to the Christ, my Savior, who is so much more grace-filled, loving and strong than His Church will ever be!
    I too am praying and grateful to God for each and every one, with all our various perspectives, understandings and hopes, who are committed to seeking the heart of God and not relying on the inadequate heart of humanity.
    I too am praying.

    (I am now a Christ-follower without a Church home that will claim him, voted out of membership by simply reading my at Annual Conference, rather than asking how there might be some way to keep me in ministry and in relationship with the United Methodist Church)

  4. For me, it all boils down to the one Old Testament passage Jesus quoted twice in Matthew: “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” As long as we’re trying to prove our worth before God through doctrinal loyalty tests, we’ve missed the point. We were shown mercy in order that we might show mercy to others. Period. Jesus’ message in the Good Samaritan is that heretics who know how to love their neighbors are more use to God than dogmatists who cross to the other side when they see somebody bleeding in the road.

    Sin is relevant insofar as it presents an obstacle to the reign of God’s mercy. Sin is that which impairs my ability to love God and love my neighbor since all scripture hangs on those two commands. This is the “rule of faith” with which Christians throughout history have interpreted scripture (until quite recently in the wake of the fundamentalist/modernist controversy of the early 20th century). Augustine said anything in the Bible which we read prescriptively must be related to our charity or we have interpreted it incorrectly.

    Methodism will survive the debate about homosexuality just like it survived the debate about slavery. The abolitionists didn’t have a leg to stand on Biblically-speaking in opposing slavery. There is nothing in the Bible that condemns slavery outright. It must be inferred from the general tenor of scripture. The pro-slavery folks had so many more verses they could point to as proof of the Biblical sanction of slavery than the anti-gay people have today in support of their case. I wonder sometimes if the Biblical “literalism” in American Christianity had its roots in the debate between the abolitionists and pro-slavery Christians in the 19th century. In any case, my prayer is that mercy would prevail and that our communion would be preserved. I pray that God would heal us of all our self-righteousness, power plays based on exploiting our victimhood, and everything else that stands in the way of His mercy.

  5. Typical straw dog argument. Slavery and homosexuality have nothing in common. By the way, other than a tacit description of how a slave should relate to his master, there is nothing in the Bible that supports the practice of slavery. It simply acknowledges that the practice exists. In every place where the Jewish slavery to Egypt is sited, it is presented as oppression and bondage. Contrarily, every Biblical text relating to the practice of homosexuality from Leviticus through Romans, condemns such practice. Please do not misunderstand; I do not seek to ostracize someone who practices homosexuality from the Church. Their lifestyle is a matter that they need to reconcile with God – not man. I will love them, embrace their right to worship, tend to them and protect them from harm, just as any other imperfect member of the faith. That is merciful, loving and honorable. I do agree with you on one thing. If we continue to look to scripture in love, God will see us through this and any other “debate”. But make no mistake, his truth will prevail.

    • Sorry for being a troll, but it requires a very creative hermeneutics to call “Slaves, obey your earthly masters” something other than a direct, unequivocal command from God. Your response actually illustrates my point perfectly. The analogy is not between homosexuality and slavery, which are apples and oranges. The analogy is in the Biblical hermeneutics required in addressing both issues. To claim that Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 3:22 are “acknowledgments” of the practice of slavery rather than affirmations of slavery requires doing two things in reading the Bible that you aren’t acknowledging: 1) Differentiating between things that Paul wrote in his letters which are applicable in his cultural context but not universally. 2) Expecting all moral teachings of the Bible to be explicable in terms of loving your neighbor rather than having to do with an abstract social order established by God (which is what pro-slavery Methodists in the early 19th century fell back on, arguing that to violate the natural order of masters and slaves, whose inherence to human community is evidenced throughout the Biblical text, would be analogous to violating the natural order of male and female). If you apply the same hermeneutics consistently across your reading of the Bible, you might come to the conclusion that Paul was talking about temple prostitution and Roman orgies and that Leviticus 18 concerned the needs of a patriarchal society that kept women and children safe through its sexual boundaries.

  6. It’s stunning to me, still, that a church that conducts trials at all cannot see its own sin in doing that. It is causing suffering and harm to Amy, everyone who knows her, and anyone who is paying attention to this story. There is personal damage being done here by the church to actual human beings, and that matters. Of course, I am praying for Amy and for everyone harmed by such a trial–which is everyone. I am also reminding myself that God loves those who are persecuted and is with us. Experience tells me that suffering can provide an amazing time of intimacy with God.

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