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Having difficult conversations
How do we have difficult conversations in The United Methodist Church? That is a question Bishop David Alan Bard of Michigan raises as we share hopes, dreams and concerns about the ministry of the church with those who identify as lesbian,bisexual,gay,transgendered, or queer.
A video to get started
To assist with this discussion, the bishop invited two individuals that have had these conversations before to share their personal theological and Wesleyan understanding of these positions. They come together, not as representatives of caucus groups, but as two people who love Jesus and love the church and whose conversation can be a model for us. This is not a full discussion of these complex conversations, but a way to gain a more profound understanding of both shared values and differences, and a renewed commitment to compassionate and intelligent conversation, even when the topics are difficult.
Truth and Reconciliation in The UMC
This independently produced video shares the experiences of Michigan lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, and queer people and their families. Developed by the Michigan Truth and Reconciliation Task Force, it is one of the resources offered by the Michigan Conference during the “Weaving Our Future" dialog and listening sessions.
Read Bishop David's introduction to this video
The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. Those words from our current Book of Discipline have been and continue to be the subject of conversation and even of rancorous debate. Some view the statement as a faithful witness to the God of Jesus Christ who addresses human persons through the inspired words of Scripture. Others view the statement as in itself incompatible with Christian teaching centered in Jesus whose focus was on love of God and neighbor and whose ministry was often a ministry to those on the margins. Our differing views are pushing us to ask whether we can stay together as a United Methodist Church.
What becomes too easily forgotten in this debate are the other words in that same paragraph of The Book of Discipline. We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self…. We affirm God's grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another as Christ loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.
As we continue our conversations about LGBTQ persons and the future of the United Methodist Church (click here to find resources being used in the Michigan Area for such conversations: vimeo.com/237001047 ) we need to hear the voices of LGBTQ persons. If we are to be in ministry for and with all persons, including LGBTQ persons, we need to hear their voices. In the video you are about to see, you are given a unique opportunity to hear from LGBTQ persons and their families. You will hear about their experiences with the church. You will hear pain and anger. You may, at times, disagree with how these persons express their frustration and hurt, or disagree with their views on how the church should change, but the voices need to be heard. The experiences need to be listened to.
In reading the letters that make up a significant portion of our New Testament, we become aware that even in the earliest Jesus communities, there was conflict. The earliest church argued over issues such as the need for circumcision, or whether it was permissible to eat meat, a portion of which had been sacrificed at a pagan temple. In the midst of those contentious debates, the letter writers often encouraged gentleness. Paul, in his letter to Galatian Christian communities, includes gentleness among the fruits of the Spirit. As we continue to have conversations about LGBTQ inclusion and the unity of the United Methodist Church, can we be gentle with one another, can we do less harm to each other? As we seek to see all persons as created in the image of God, and as we commit ourselves to be in ministry with and for all persons, can we be gentle with one another, can we do less harm?
It is my hope that in viewing this video and listening to the voices within it, we can grow in grace, grow in ministry, grow in understanding, and grow in gentleness.