Recent events have been traumatic for The United Methodist Church I love and serve. A called general conference of delegates from churches all over the world, met to talk about resolving differences over human sexuality, differences that divided many denominations over the last few years. But instead of resolving differences the delegates in a narrow vote strengthened restrictions already in place. The four-day meetings began emphasizing prayer and worship but essentially ended with impassioned rhetoric, parliamentary maneuvers and lots of tears, anguish and anger.

Our United Methodist Church, like our world has become deeply divided over many subjects, not just human sexuality. A diversity once hailed as a strength for our church has become such a problem that many disillusioned members and churches will consider leaving or continue fighting to the point that our credibility as well as the beneficial and needed missions of our denomination will be severely damaged.

There must be a better answer for churches and communities than divisiveness and a “win at any cost” attitude. As Christians we should be setting the example of how to handle difficult conversations with compassion and grace but instead, we all too quickly become just like everyone else.

Jesus taught a different way: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. (Mat. 5:14-16)

We are called to be light helping others find their way.

Our good deeds should shine for everyone else to see.

At General Conference, the United Methodist Church had the opportunity to show the world how to be a light for Jesus while attempting to resolve a critical social issue and we failed.

This month marks the beginning of Lent, a period of 40 days before Easter. Lent is an opportunity for Christians to take time for reflection and prayer. Why is this so important? Because it was important to Jesus. Jesus took forty days to fast and pray before beginning his ministry. During that time, the devil tempted him to give up his mission: First with food, then with power and finally through Scripture. Each time, Jesus resisted. (From Luke 4)

Jesus also faced divisiveness and anger but through the power of prayer and fasting he resisted the temptation to accept the wrong answers. This time of Lent presents an opportunity to spend time in preparation and prayer to better become a light to the world.

“When the devil finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region.” (Luke 4:14) Jesus was strengthened for the mission and ministry ahead. During this period of Lent, we too can be strengthened for the difficult ministry ahead.

At a time like this, with our church and our country so divided, a willingness to stop and pray makes sense. Max Lucado wrote a simple but heartfelt prayer: “Father, you are good. I need help. Heal me and forgive me. They need help. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Jesus said: “When you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production… Find a quiet secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Mat. 6:5-6)

Here is another simple prayer to consider:

God, I love you. I need you.

You have a purpose for me.

Give me courage to follow.

Help me to help others.

Forgive me when I miss opportunities.

Thank you for everything. Amen.

Simple? Yes. Easy? No way.

Shortly after General Conference, one pastor wrote to her congregation: “Let us each pray about our words and actions toward others and be quick to offer grace, forgiveness, and peace. We are called to practice hospitality and share the love of Jesus Christ.”

James Moore wrote: “We were never meant to bear our burdens alone. We were never meant to suffer in isolation. It is the genius of the Christian faith that it recognizes this truth. We in the church family are a community of love sharing the joys and sorrows of life together from the cradle to the grave. The anthem “No Man Is an Island” is based on John Donne’s famous words and it reminds us powerfully that we all need one another, that not one of us is an island, that none of us stand alone, that we are all brothers and sisters with God as our Father.”

We in the church family are a community of love sharing the joys and sorrows of life together from the cradle to the grave. We all need one another.

My response to what has happened at General Conference of the United Methodist Church? We can and we will do better with God’s help.

God, I love you. I need you.

You have a purpose for me.

Give me courage to follow.

Help me to help others.

Forgive me when I miss opportunities.

Thank you for everything. Amen.


3 Comments

Marti Theune · March 9, 2019 at 6:42 pm

I certainly don’t see this out come as a failure and neither do all those who voted in favor of traditional Biblical teachings.

Candy Sanford · March 11, 2019 at 4:52 pm

I have left the Methodist church after being a lifelong member. This vote was too close and those who want to ignore scripture for the PC world, will continue to chip away until they ruin this denomination. Sad thing that the written word of God is to be ignored, remember this, Jesus did not come to overturn the old testament, he came to fulfill scripture

Ray Funkhouser · March 11, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Found it discouraging by those that say the Conference was a failure. It was the very opposite. Hope those that feel it was take a deep look at the decision.

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