There are very few people here in Portland who would say that The United Methodist Church is in a good, healthy place (no, I don’t mean Portland). We have come to a crisis point, where we cannot say we are united in Christ, or of one mind, heart, soul, and spirit. So, how have we come to this untenable place? Simple answer: we were taught to be here. The complex answer is: we have chosen what to learn and believe, and have adopted conditional reality as absolute truth. We are fighting over opinion and conflicting information as if they were immutable laws and definitive principles. We have chosen to do this. We have intentionally set diverse views in opposition, and we have used our scriptures and Discipline as weapons, to frame a battle in terms of winners and losers.
The reason we are not coming to grace-filled consensus indicates that we don’t want to. We are wallowing in our divisions, and we do not wish for compromise or concession. We want our way. We want validation. We want confidence that what we have been taught, what we have learned, and what we believe is true. We are not overly interested in facts. We don’t care what science has to tell us. We don’t care much about cultural or contextual differences. In short, we don’t care about perspectives that differ from our own. Other beliefs and opinions are wrong, and therefore not worth considering.
The only way out, the only way forward, is to decide we want things to work out. It is a conscious decision and declaration. We are talking about a comprehensive paradigm shift, adopting a very different level of engagement. We need to accept full responsibility without placing blame. We need to shift focus to creating a future rather than dwelling on past and present hurts. We need to commit to reconciliation beyond restitution and restoration. We cannot go backwards to undo the past as a way forward to create a future. True repentance and apology will be necessary, but from all sides. Perhaps most difficult will be to receive different bases of information and data in an objective, non-prejudged manner. But beyond information, we must prayerfully seek transformation as one body, not as disconnected parts. The “us/them” that has defined us must be set aside for an “all of us together” culture. The key to all of this is that it must happen by intention and design. If we will not make a commitment to love our neighbor as ourselves, we will not move to a new and better place. Enemies must become friends. This cannot be a one-sided movement, but we must agree to all move together.
We have created the place where we now stand. Only through concentrated and collaborative effort will be create a new space. If, at the end of a truly dedicated and concerted effort, we decide we cannot be Christian together, we may have to concede that we must be human apart. It may be that our personal and human needs and desires are too great for the Holy Spirit to transform. I, for one, do not believe this is so. I truly believe God can heal us and help us become the people God wants us to be.