“Be mindful of whom you represent.”

“Hello – My name is Rick and I am a ……. err…….. well…. I work with people….”

Ever since responding to God’s call I have had a difficult time telling people I am now a minister. It’s not that I am ashamed of it, it is that when I say what I do most people change how they interact with me. You know, they suddenly are conscious of the beer they are drinking or magically try to eliminate swear words, maybe they say how they meant to come to church, or they find an excuse to leave the conversation. It got me wondering, “Why is it so hard to talk about your faith and be faithful?”

From October 20th to November 24th Rev. Sam Wilde and I will be exploring this topic during our worship services. We will examine how we as individuals respond to our call to faith and how we invite others into it. Each week we will explore the opportunities we have in living life as a disciple and how our actions can encourage or discourage someone from following Jesus. We will link each topic to scripture and then bring it back to application.

The reminder ‘Be mindful of whom you represent’ is meant for us to take a moment before we respond, reply or take any action, that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. As Christians in the community and world, we are His representatives and our behavior can either be a welcoming breath of love in a world of hate or something else entirely.

The series is focused around five “I” words. The “I” here being you. Here are the topics for the five weeks ahead.

Sunday, October 20th ,10 am service – Introductions – How do you present yourself to someone? Introductions can set the stage for someone to take another step, to come closer or they can send them fleeing.

What sort of introduction can lead someone to want to know more about Jesus?

Sunday, October 27th ,10 am service – Invitations – Don’t you love getting a text, an email, a phone call from a friend who invites you to their house or to go to a movie or a game, maybe a picnic? Why is it so hard to invite someone to share in the joy you have from accepting Jesus in your life?

Sunday, November 3rd ,10 am service – Interactions – How many ways are there to interact with someone? All these interactions say a lot about who we are and the question is, ‘does anyone know you are a Christian by your interactions?

Sunday, November 10th ,10 am service – Intentions – There’s a saying and some debate as to who actually coined the phrase, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ What does Jesus intend for us to do as disciples and more importantly, what is your intent when you talk to someone about your faith, your church, and your trust in God?

Sunday, November 17th ,10 am service – Inspiration – Sometimes I think Jesus’ disciples had it easy, He was right there with them! How we can use the gifts from Christ, our solid foundation, to stabilize us and to keep us steady? What in your daily life do you do to receive inspiration from Christ?

November 24th – The Open Door – All this journey, through the introductions, the invitations, the intentions, interactions, and inspirations we have to remember the person we are talking about it you! Yes, you are that representative of Christ and his mission, to bring about wholeness, to spread God’s love, to bring peace in our world. During this last Sunday, before the first Sunday of Advent, before Thanksgiving, we will take the time to reflect on our community and how we are fulfilling Jesus’ call to be disciples.

I hope you will take time out of your busy schedules to join us Sunday mornings. Worship begins at 10am, our Sunday school starts at 9am.

Pastor Rick Rabe

Judicial Council Ruling – a mixed bag of ups and downs but mostly down.

If you have been following the decision from the General Conference in St. Louis, the next step was to have the Judicial Council (think Supreme Court but for the UMC) review the wording against the UMC constitution and decide what is and is not constitutional.  Well, they did their job and a lot of the homophobic language that the conservative groups put in the “Traditional Plan” will take effect in January, 2020.

 

SO where do we go from here?  Adam Hamilton if the lead pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City and a leader in the UMC.  Some of you who have taken our most recent study course know we used his book.   Rev. Hamilton posted the following on his Facebook page, worth the time to read.

 

From Adam Hamilton’s Facebook post of April 26, 2019

Yesterday, the Judicial Council of the UMC (the church’s version of the Supreme Court), ruled on the constitutionality of the various parts of the Traditional Plan passed at General Conference the end of February. As expected, portions were deemed unconstitutional while others were deemed constitutional.

As much as some may have hoped the Judicial Council would have ruled it all unconstitutional, the JC has made a reasoned argument that some parts of the Traditional Plan comply with our constitution while others do not. This is painful and disappointing, once more, for those who disagree with the Traditional Plan. But it is not unexpected.

The divisions in the denomination cannot be solved by the Judicial Council.

There are numerous conversations taking place across the church focused on finding a way forward for United Methodists who disagree with the Traditional Plan. Most United Methodists in the US believe they can remain in a church where Christians disagree on same sex marriage. They have been doing this for years. There are few UM churches where everyone agrees completely on these questions.

There are, however, some who cannot remain in a United Methodist Church where any view or interpretation of scripture regarding same-sex marriage, other than their own, is allowed. These self-styled “incompatibilsts” have said they cannot remain in a church where everyone doesn’t adhere to their interpretation and practice regarding same-sex marriage. The conservatives who hold these views wrote and passed the Traditional Plan. They have said that there is no room for compromise – it is their way, or those with differing views should leave.

So, where do we go from here?

It is likely that as long as one side makes no room for compromise or acknowledging the views and convictions of the other, the only path forward is division. What does this look like?

1. One side or the other convinces their churches to leave (the Judicial Council ruled that churches could, in fact, vote to leave the UMC when certain conditions are met).

2. Perhaps there is a new way of staying united that allows for different expressions of Methodism that are still somehow connected and share the name, logo and some central agencies, as Bishop Scott Jones has suggested.

3. There may be a dissolution of the UMC, and the formation of two or threee new expressions of Methodism out of the one denomination.

These are the three paths forward that I most often hear in the various conversations I’m a part of.

While various groups are holding conversations about these questions, one very broad conversation will be held in Kansas City, May 20-22, for “compatibilists” – those who believe we can disagree about how we interpret scripture while agreeing that we will welcome LGBT persons without treating them like second class Christians. Ten leaders from each US annual conference will be attending this gathering, as well as many bishops, general secretaries and other leaders of the church. [18% of those invited are young adults, 18% are people of color, 12% are LGBT leaders in the church.] There are evangelicals and progressives, men and women, laity and clergy. They will be dreaming about what Methodism should look like going forward, and how we create a dynamic Methodism that welcomes all people, is focused on inviting them to faithfully follow Christ, and inspires them to pursue a passionate personal life of faith while also “doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.”

The 600 participants were selected from over 2,600 people who were nominated or nominated themselves in just a few days from when nominations were announced. The rapid and large number of nominations indicates a high level of interest in this conversation. These persons are from over 2,000 churches indicating, once more, the high level of interest in a better way forward.

Conversations will focus on what centrists and progressives believe God wills for United Methodism going forward. The group will look at various paths forward. And ultimately seek consensus on the way forward. Attendees will the. return to their annual conferences to expand the conversation within their conferences.

I believe by May 2020 we will have resolved the current division and that there will be a United Methodism for the majority of UM’s in the US who feel that the Traditional Plan does not reflect their understanding of God’s love, mercy or grace.

I also believe, with many others, that annual conferences are the key to how things ultimately sort themselves out. It is likely that annual conferences will vote to align as compatibilists or incompatibilists (something like One Church Plan or Traditional Plan). All like minded conferences will form connections. Churches who disagree with their annual conferences will have the ability to vote to align with a conference that shares their views. This approach shares elements in common with the CCP and Bishop Jones’ suggestions.

Again, the Judicial Council decision was not unexpected. The important work for United Methodism will be in the upcoming conversations. For most local churches, little changes. Progressives will continue to do church as they have. Centrists will continue to lead and do ministry as they have. And conservatives will continue to do ministry as they have, regardless of the ruling of the Judicial Council or the passage of the Traditional Plan at GC 2019 in February. But this season does represent an exciting moment as Methodists pray and discern where God is leading our church in the future.

United Methodists and the Special General Session, Feb 23 – 26

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

That is one of many peoples favorite snippets of Scripture.  It is from Paul in one of his many letters to the early church.  How strange it is to contrast this against the ‘other’ scripture, the one that will be debated in St. Louis next week.  I’m talking about Romans 1: 26 – 32 or since what will be debated ignores most of that scripture then we focus on Romans 1: 26 & 27, where, by some, people claim this means that God hates homosexuals.

In 1972, the United Methodist Church added discriminatory language specifically against homosexuals to the ‘rules of the UMC’ in the book called ‘The book of discipline.’  They were very thorough in there additions citing everything from calling it a sin, to prohibiting gay marriage and gay clergy.  There was also language prohibiting clergy from supporting gay rights, and prohibiting financially supporting anything to due with gay and lesbian issues, with a single exception, the “HIV epidemic.”

Of course, there was no mention of the other things Paul wrote in the next section… “They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”  Imagine if they had included ‘inventors of evil?’   My dad worked for the defense industry, certainly people who make weapons would be considered ‘inventors of evil’ as would many, many others in 1972 but they were the majority…..

All this is to say, I am happy to have been sent to this church, West Springfield UMC to be their pastor.  Early on WSUMC joined an organization called ‘Reconciling Ministries‘ – a voluntary group who focus is on acceptance of all God’s children.  WSUMC planted their feet firmly in the 1 Corinthians 13:13 soil long before I arrived.

 

I preached a sermon on Feb 3rd, 2019 based on Paul’s Corinthian writings.  If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

 

In closing I ask each of you to pray for the delegates to the General Session in St. Louis.  Pray that they are overwhelmed by God’s love and grace.

 

Blessings,

 

Pastor Rick

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: