I spent a few days with a group of Christians who were not United Methodists recently, and I came to an important realization: the UMC has exhausted me. I love my tradition, but it has exhausted me. Issues that I most care about–ministry with people with disabilities, theological readings of the Bible, catechesis, theological anthropology, and theological education–simply get lost in the cacophony of voices arguing over human sexuality and threatening division.
What’s more, I don’t think that reasoned conversation can change things in the UMC, at least not at this point. Our positions are entrenched. Our presuppositions differ vastly from one another. (Cue chorus of voices saying, “Indeed, that’s why we should divide!” as if such division could possibly be an amicable, bloodless affair.) For that matter, I think that there are many people in the denomination who would rather divide at this point than go through the hard work of staying together.
The UMC has become a Gordian knot, and only God can cut through it. In other words, the situation is so dire that only God can fix it. So, in the future, rather than blogging about such issues as canon law, the office of the bishop, or church unity, I’m going to start praying. Here’s what I’m going to pray through the 2016 General Conference:
God, I pray for the fruit of the Spirit to become powerfully manifest in our churches. Give us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Heal the unhappy divisions among us. Save us from all forms of selfishness, bitterness, and divisiveness. May all that we do be to serve and glorify you. I ask this in the name of Jesus.
Prayer is powerful. It is healing. It is stronger than arguments, stronger than our divisions, stronger than politics. If the UMC has a future, it will be rooted in prayer and brought into being by the work of the Holy Spirit. If you would like to join me in this endeavor, I would welcome your prayers alongside mine.