well

“Everyone here is a child of God.  Hard stop.  Period.”  Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

We were gifted with a fine preach this morning.

We who gathered for 8:00 AM worship on day two of General Conference were the tired and the dispirited.  A new rule, number 44 by name, had been brought before the body as a way to participate in one of Wesley’s Means of Grace:  Holy Conferencing.  The gist of the rule was that Roberts Rules could be put aside while considering challenging issues.  Perhaps, given the clear challenge of discussing issues regarding sexuality (why is this so very hard???) people could speak heart to one another and learn from one another and allow for decision-making to be shaped by listening to one another.

This is clearly an uncomfortable notion.   It is clearly uncomfortable because Rule 44 is not being readily adopted.  Rather than agreeing to enter into holy discourse, the chains of protocol (Robert’s Rules rule) are being rattled and the Body is (thus far) bound.

Into that collective sense of “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Bishop Palmer rose to speak the Episcopal Address.

Oh my.

It felt to me that the Bishop was summoning the Spirit to blow grace through the gathered faithful. Bishop Palmer was prophetic and his words resonated with the same sort of deep sense of love and grief Jesus shared in his prayer in John 17: 23.  Jesus prays that the disciples might be one in order that they might bear witness to the miracle of God made flesh in the heart and teachings of Christ Jesus.

The quote above about everyone being a child of God was just one of the things that made me rejoice in the power of the Word preached through the prism of a heart broken open by grief.

We are those hearts, aren’t we?

Our hearts are broken, to be sure, but from such a laid-open place the sounding of the gospel gains urgency and power.

Jesus prays yet for us to live the legacy of love offered to us.

Conversation by conversation, shared heart by shared heart may we lay ourselves open to the wash of God’s grace.  Surely we have the courage to learn the hearts of others in order for us to become one in the Spirit.

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Jesus said it.  We might try it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

here I am

I am at General Conference.  Every four years United Methodists from across the globe gather to remember who they are.  That’s the notion, anyway.

I am attending because the United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion made a scholarship available.  I applied.  I received a scholarship.

So here I am in Portland, Oregon.  I don’t have voice on the floor.  I don’t have much to do but be present to what is while I pray for what might be.

John Wesley spoke about the need for the people called Methodists to name the reality of differing opinions while holding a shared sense of grounding in the heart of Jesus.

The heart isn’t holding so well.  For decades the United Methodist Church has wrangled about issues around full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children of God.  Some harmful language has been codified into policy.  Barbed-wire proclamations regarding the seemliness of same gender love, the ordination of “self-avowed practicing” glbt clergy, and the prohibition given clergy around officiating at same gender marriages have cut deep into the souls of too many.

How long can hearts bleed?

Today I witnessed a public act that rang with historical power.  A woman who has blessed the church and served the church for decades has been denied ordination because she will not deny her God-given orientation nor will she deny the love she shares with her wife.  She was ordained in a non-traditional service held in the lobby where the conference is being held.  Her non-traditional ordination hearkens back to the roots of Methodism in the US.  Pastors were needed to go and teach and preach and bless.  There was need and there were not enough ordained pastors to meet the need so Wesley stepped outside the bonds of church polity to meet the needs of the many hungering to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

That hunger is real today.

What will happen at this General Conference is alive in the expansive, inclusive and broken-with-grief heart of Jesus.

So I am praying:  Come, Jesus, Come.  Show us how to love each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this year

I am United Methodist by choice. I wasn’t born into the tribe called Methodist. I found my way into the denomination through a church that lived piety and practice. It got my attention.

First United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh took my family in when we were far from home with two young children. They helped me learn a living faith.

It wasn’t because their choir was the best or their preacher the most eloquent. They taught me incarnational church because in a time when AIDS was becoming scourge they were willing to stand in solidarity with those physically and spiritually devastated by loss upon loss. The church was unwilling to practice willful disregard.

I want to unpack that. By “willful disregard” I mean churches who see pain or disruption of creation around them and do nothing to reach into that pain with compassion and care; even the elemental care of naming and noticing.

I became a United Methodist because I saw what church can be and always I long for institutional United Methodism to recall its roots and grounding. The Wesleys taught, among other things, that faith is a practice meant to be lived and willful disregard is not the way of the gospel and not the way of the people called Methodist.

This year I want the church be a place where we will name the ache of racism and generational poverty grounded in racism. I’m praying for a movement that names the despoiling of creation and the devastation that results from the pillage of the sacred in the bodies of women and children and men and the earth. I’m desirous of leaders who choose to use their gifts to work with their faith kin to build low income housing and feed hungry children and provide access to education.

I can’t give much more energy to the soul-sucking debate over full inclusion of GLBT folk. Really, Jesus and the grace offered through him are sullied by the pitched slug-fest over a paltry number of lines in scripture. To squander the gift of the gospel through the barricading of grace is willful disregard.

I want to lead a discipling center where people know that we are not there to play church.

Rather, we are mindfully grounded in the teachings and practices and wonderings of faith and because we trust the invitation of our God and our own foibled and hopeful selves, indeed all things are possible.

All things.

All things.

good news

 

The United Methodist Church is in the news these days.

We are not in the news for the ways we reach into places where typhoons decimate and poverty gnarls, though we could be.

We are not in the news for the ways we have fought for justice through a conviction that we are called to “be in ministry for and with all persons” (Para. 161F, Book of Discipline),  though we long to be.

Instead we are in the news for the ways our church polity trumps gospel imperative.

At Richfield United Methodist Church we have sought to listen deeply to the heart of the Holy.  In our discernment we have turned to scripture, tradition, reason and experience to lead us to the recognition that we cannot collude with the barricading of grace.  We desire to welcome all families into a transformational relationship with Jesus the Christ.  We want to provide a church community through which people are held and known as they move ever deeper into communion with a God who welcomes and sustains love in all its manifestations.

Jesus welcomed all to the table of grace.  We believe we are called to do the same; in fact, we feel powerfully blessed to be able to do the same.

Our conversations, prayers and deep listening prompted us to adopt the statement shared below*.

We pray that through this United Methodist Church the wildly inclusive love of God in Christ will be proclaimed, lived, shared and celebrated by all.

We would like for that to be good news of great joy.

How else would we live the gospel of Jesus?

RICHFIELD UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Commitment to Marriage Equality

As a church in the Methodist tradition since 1854, Richfield United Methodist Church’s ministries are grounded in Jesus’ call to love both God and neighbor. We acknowledge that we have often failed to extend the radical hospitality that God asks of us, even as we continually strive to do so.

In 2007—seeking to open our hearts, minds, and doors—we publicly welcomed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families into full participation in the life and ministries of the congregation, and we continue to do so today.

We recognize that when two people come together to form a primary committed relationship, they often ask the church to bless their wedding. With due consideration, the church responds by celebrating, in the presence of their families and friends, the work of God’s Spirit in their lives.

We lament that in our time, so many courts, legislatures, and religious institutions still deny same-gender and transgender couples equal access to marriage and all the blessings, rights, and responsibilities thereof.

We rejoice that at this point in history, the arc of justice now bends toward equal recognition of marriage for all couples.

Today we affirm that God’s grace is open to all, and we witness to that grace through our commitment to justice and equality in our congregation, the state of Minnesota, the United Methodist Church, and the world. We will honor and celebrate the wedding of any couple, licensed in Minnesota, who seek to commit their lives to one another in marriage.

Approved by the Administrative Board of Richfield UMC

Signed on September 17, 2013 by

Sue Restemayer, Ad Board Chair, Nick Dewey, Trustees Chair, David Couillard, Lay Leader, and Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay, Pastor

*We are grateful for the work of Dumbarton UMC.  Our statement is patterned after theirs.

reunion

It has been a season of reunion gatherings at our church.

Through reunions called “funerals” lives are remembered, strands of relationship and being are celebrated, and gratitude and grief are named.

As pastor, I am able to feel the coming-home of children raised in the church. For perhaps the first time they sit in a pew without their father or their mother by their side. The jarring is so real. Powerfully, the sanctuary holds their beloved yet; it always will.

Picture boards showing big fish and wide grins bear witness to a singular life. The innocent hope shining through wedding photos and the rascally delights of play bear witness to the unfolding of story and heart.

Friends and co-workers, long-lost relatives and church companions share sugar and coffee and a need to bear witness.

The mystery that is life, death, and resurrection. Together we bow before the enormity of it all.

The church writ large flops about in a scramble for relevance. We sometimes chase after the latest gimmick that will settle our anxieties about decline.

Would that we would cease the scramble and remember that the center of our being is reunion: reunion with the beating heart of the Holy, reunion with the ongoing presence, power and guide that is Christ Jesus, reunion with the promise that in the midst of life God longs love for each and all.

The church exists in order to facilitate reunion.

Through baptisms and funerals, faith groups and worship, we exist to host reunion.

Holy work, that.

don’t know

I don’t know much about a lot of things.

I don’t know how it is governments can poison their own people (or any people).

I don’t know how it is children are victims of gunshot wounds at the hands of those who are barely out of childhood themselves who are armed with metal death.

I don’t know how as the planet continues to wobble in ways more and more dramatic there is a continued unwillingness to claim culpability for global warming.

I don’t know how it became politically incorrect to share sorrows and questions.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that there is Holy Heart beating in the midst of the pain.

I do know that when people come together to remember who they are the world breathes hope.

I do know that what I can do is “love from the center of who I am” (Eugene Peterson’s voicing of Paul, Romans 12) and trust that in so doing I am naming and claiming the source of life.

I do know that in our flailings we are not alone. We can chose love and resistance to thuggery and we can use the wonderings of our heart to get us out in the world in order that grace might be communal heart beat.

Is there any other way?

What would we live that does not have hope in it?

I don’t know.

This past week Minnesota United Methodists gathered for our Annual Conference. It is a reunion and a marathon of meetings and always Annual Conference stokes my desire for fruitful ministry to a fever pitch. I serve a church pregnant with possibility and sometimes being patient is teeth gnash.

This year’s conference, like those preceding it, was marked by a speaking of how it is the larger church is so very wounded.

There are some eighty clergy in the conference (myself included), and over 1,000 across the United States who have signed a document stating that we will joyfully offer services of marriage to same sex couples. In Minnesota, it is now legal! And, this offering of grace routine to heterosexual couples is against the polity of our church. Persons violating said polity can be disciplined for facilitating the speaking of love and covenant.

I feel such grief. I feel grief for the judicatories in our system who are tasked with upholding policies they may not agree with. We are compatriots in the preaching of the good news of the nothing-can-seperate-us-from-the love of God in Christ Jesus. And, there may soon come a day when polity trumps grace and preachers are exiled by their kin in Christ. Surely God weeps.

I feel such grief because the expanse of grace opened to us by Jesus seems so jealously guarded by fear and surely, God weeps.

I feel such grief because this mother is watching her children and their compatriots turn from the Body of Christ known as the United Methodist movement. They cannot understand a denomination that barricades from some the very grace said to be offered to all.

I feel such grief because there is so much work calling to the people of Jesus: poverty and racism and ecological devastation and the people of Jesus are called to respond and heal and bless and while we natter on about who it is who ought be united in marriage by our pastors, the world continues to be wounded and about this I know God weeps.

I’m a United Methodist pastor. While my church is pregnant with possibility it so very challenged by its being as a United Methodist Church. We are a people meant to welcome Spirit breath and life transformation. We want to live in the way of Jesus.

May the God who weeps hold us in this time.

why

I have been asked to share the position paper used to introduce the legislation asking the United Methodists in Minnesota to publicly oppose the marriage amendment:

On behalf of the 17 churches and 2 coalitions who bring before you this legislation (Walker Community UMC, Richfield UMC, Lake Harriet UMC, Simpson UMC, Table 31 UMC, Prospect Park UMC, Epworth UMC, The Peace and Justice and Reconciling Committees of Hennepin Ave UMC, Edina Good Samaritan UMC, Minnehaha UMC, Minnetonka UMC, Golden Valley Spirit of Hope UMC, St Anthony Faith UMC, Excelsior UMC, Shoreview Peace UMC, Duluth First UMC, Minnesota Reconciling Retired Clergy Caucus, and United Methodists for Marriage Equality)

On behalf of the people in our pews and those outside our doors who wonder what being zealous in the ways of love means to the people of the United Methodist Church.

On behalf of my children, and maybe yours, who long for this Jesus movement to live the embrace of open hearts, minds, door and open mouths regarding full inclusion of all God’s beloveds.

On behalf of the movement of grace meant to hold and support the well being of all families.

I ask that the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church speak a loud “no” to the double barricading of human and civil rights represented by the legislative attempt to amend the constitution of this, our state parish.

We bring this resolution believing that in Minnesota, at least, we can agree that we disagree around theological issues regarding the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in our communities of faith.

What we do NOT disagree on is the long-standing insistence on the part of people called United Methodists that we stand, as scripture and our Discipline proclaim, with those oppressed by cultural systems that would deny equal rights.

Our Discipline states that “we are guided in developing our ministries by heeding concerns generated by great human struggles for dignity, liberation and fulfillment… These concerns are borne by theologies that express the heart cries of the downtrodden and the aroused indignation of the compassionate.” (Book of Discipline, The Present Challenge to Theology in the Church)

The indignation of the compassionate is aroused when one population is singled out and denied the some 515 rights and privileges accorded those who live in differently-gendered marriage.

We know to be real the heart cries of members of our churches.

We know to be real the distress of those who wonder if the United Methodist Church really seeks to embody the vows made by members: that we will resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

We bring this resolution because it is time for us to claim publicly that we support all families.

And, we covenant to support civic and human rights that support all to live love with those God has given their hearts to cherish.

This is a great human struggle for dignity, liberation, and fulfillment.

We are the people of Jesus, called to respond to oppression with the zeal of love.

Our children, our churches, our parishioners, our state, our movement and our God call us to no less.

Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay
June 1, 2012