WEDNESDAY, May 18, 2016
Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
Grace and peace in moments when God’s spirit breaks through!
You have probably all experienced a moment or two in your life when you felt that God’s Holy Spirit was present in real ways. Today, I felt that Spirit in real ways. Let me share a bit.
The morning started very early with conversations in the Council of Bishops around a statement we had worked on in response to the request by the General Conference to give leadership around the impasse that was evident in our legislative process. The General Conference was headed toward a train wreck in the worst sense of that phrase.
As has been the case in the past, efforts to solve matters around human sexuality were going to be resolved by the traditional legislative process, a process which many feel is futile and ultimately very painful to most persons and hurtful to the LGBTQ community in our United Methodist Churches. Creating a win-lose situation in matters of human sexuality is not helpful and has certainly not been conducive to unity in our United Methodist Church.
The Council of Bishops crafted and approved (not by unanimous vote) a statement which was entitled An Offering for a Way Forward. The statement, grounded in Galatians 3:25-29 shared that the bishops also feel the pain that is being felt around the denomination. We declared that this was a chairs moment (a God-given, holy moment) to assist the church find a way forward that would bring about a deep unity that allows for a variety of expressions to co-exist in one church.
To this end, we expressed that, “our unity is found in Jesus Christ; it is not something we achieve but something we receive as a gift from God.” I felt the Holy Spirit as I read the statement.
The statement expressed our commitment to help lead the church in such a way that our mission and ministry in the world would not be compromised while we lead the church to new behaviors, a new way of being and new forms and structures.
Ultimately, this statement, which included suggestions for a process and next steps, was offered to the General Conference. After significant debate a motion to adopt the document and its process provisions was passed.
A significant provision of this document was the recommendation that this General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and that we seek ways to “continue to explore options to help the church live in grace with one another—including ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm while we uphold the Discipline.” This will require a complex conversation in the Council as we begin to implement these provisions.
As you probably already know, the motion to accept the plan was adopted by a close majority vote. That means there was considerable negative reaction to the motion. Still, this was Holy Spirit moment #2 for me.
The day and evening concluded with a continuation of our Acts of Repentance as we welcomed descendants of the Sand Creek massacre. Descendants of Sand Creek were present and shared in the plenary and with a dinner afterwards. I was honored to present a copy of the newly published book about the massacre to one of the descendants. As I presented it to him, I also gave him an origami crane and said, “This paper crane is a symbol of peace. Please receive it with my deep wish for forgiveness and peace between us.” Holy Spirit moment #3.
I can only hope that peace will come between the Sand Creek descendants and The United Methodist Church and that peace will also come to our United Methodist Church. That would be for me another Holy Spirit moment, indeed!