Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the politics of inclusivity

A word from our brothers and sisters of Methodists Students for an All Inclusive Church (for more information on MoSAIC check out their link on the right!):

For several years now, the United Methodist Church has been faced with a membership that is rapidly shrinking and aging. Thus, for the past few years we have seen an increased emphasis on ministries for and with young adults and college students. However, this growing emphasis may face a difficult road in the months to come. The Judicial Council, which will be meeting later this month, currently has two cases before it (Dockets VI and XII), from the Carolina and Pacific Northwest Conferences respectively. In both of these cases the question revolves around funding in the Annual Conference as understood through paragraph 612.19* of the 2004 Discipline. Basically, the situation is this. On the floor of two separate Annual Conferences, the funding to two campus ministries was challenged based solely on the fact that these campus ministries called themselves Reconciling. For those of you who don’t know, this means that these campus ministries are committed to upholding the importance of inclusiveness of all persons, regardless of sexual identity or orientation. So, after being faced with these questions, both of the bishops from these Annual Conferences ruled that there was no problem funding these organizations. However, these decisions have been challenged, and now sit before the Judicial Council.
So, here is really what’s going on. After finding a similar proposal suggested by an advocacy group, two members, one from each of these Annual Conferences, felt it important to challenge the funding of these two campus ministries. While the Bishops of both Annual Conferences felt that the question was not applicable, the issue has been pushed and brought before the Judicial Council. So we sit and wait for the Judicial Council to decide whether or not it’s proper to cut funding to a campus ministry, solely because they stress the importance of inclusiveness. The decision that the Judicial Council makes could set a dangerous precedent by allowing the Annual Conferences to withhold funding from ANY organization that has ties to such a reconciling ideal. The problem we face then is the slippery slope of allowing a conference to withdraw funding from vital and life-saving ministries, based solely on the fact that they feel (with or without full knowledge) that a funded ministry is somehow breaking the laws set forth in the discipline.
However, we have the right and responsibility to take heart. The fact of the matter is, pure and simple, that no matter what the Judicial Council decides, the decision will ultimately work to strengthen the work of the RMN (Reconciling Ministries Network), MoSAIC (Methodist Students for an All Inclusive Church), On Fire, and the MFSA (Methodist Federation for Social Action). If the Council rules in favor of the Bishops, it is a clear sign that funding will not be jeopardized, at least by a whim of the Annual Conference, for those ministries who hope and work for the cause of inclusiveness. If the Judicial Council rules against the decisions made by each of the Bishops, it will serve as a reason to draw together people who are interested and concerned about ministry with young people and the issue of inclusiveness.

The Judicial Council meeting will occur on October 24th, with decisions to follow. Check back with for updates and responses to their decisions


Thursday, October 18, 2007

"where faith inspires action"

Rachel and I have spent the past two days sitting in meetings here in Nashville, TN. For folks who don't know, OnFire is affiliated with the Methodist Federation for Social Action (for more info on the MFSA check out the link on the right!). Twice a year we hang out with folks who have been working for faith in action, God's justice in the church and in the world, for longer than we've been alive.

Yesterday, the MFSA released a new tag line: Where Faith Inspires Action. I love it. That's exactly what we want to be. Now for the hard part: let's do it.

There have been several headlines in the past few weeks that tell me we need more faith-inspired-action. Confirmation of Justice Department memos supporting the use of water-boarding and electroshock on men's testicles is a good jumping off point. A Presidential veto of a bill to increase spending for children without health care would be another. Poverty is yet another. Folks, many of these things have become common place to us, not acceptable maybe, but inevitable or too big for us to address. But as Christians, we should be outraged.

So what do we do? Good question. We need to be creative about our witness. Let's face it, people expect us to protest in organized, legal ways. They expect us to put bumper stickers on our cars, stickers on our laptops, and clever phrases on our t-shirts. Those things are great, but we need to think about acting independent of what is expected of us, even when the outcome may be uncomfortable for us, our churches, or the communities in which we live. Because that's the point. Poverty isn't comfortable. Torture isn't comfortable. Sick children are not comfortable.

If you have some ideas for creative, risky, NONVIOLENT (sorry, but of all the things the gospel message inspires me to do, violence is not one of them!) possibilities, feel free to post them here. If you don't, let's chat, either on the blog here or by email at Up to now, we've spoken primarily about faith on this blog. Good, it's where we should all start. Now, comes the action. Hang on, I think we're all in for a wild ride!


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Striving for Perfection?

In my United Methodist Studies class last weekend, we discussed this favorite phrase of Methodists "are you striving for perfection" and the scary ordination question "Do you expect to be perfected in love in this life" (to which the person respond "yes")

But what is perfection? I have long thought it was a state of being capable of doing all things, of behaving with perfect compassion, reason, and capability to achieve goodness and light in the world. I thought only God was perfect, and that our call to be perfect was a calling to achieve more than is humanly possible - by that empowering love of Jesus Christ, of course!

But recently, I have begun to doubt that I really understood what we mean by perfection. You see, I have never met a perfect person, and I known many people who have given their entire lives for Christ, or for Good. No one is super-man (or woman) - so perhaps this isn't what God meant (although I think poor John Wesley was enough of a perfectionist to actually mean superhuman abilities).

SO what is perfected in love? I think it means a journey. The kind of journey where a community of tomato-farmers look around and say "we deserve a living wage for our work" and where middle-class Americans stop eating at Taco Bell to stand in solidarity with the farmers. The kind of journey where people in community can be honest about their faults and failings, because no one expects them to be a cleanly packaged, always healthy movie star. In fact, I think that like the Pilgrims who once inspired Canterbury tales, we should recognize the faithfulness of being on the road.

And as pilgrims we are supported in special ways; by our fellow pilgrims who journey with us for the entire road. By those who might join us for a few days, or months, but eventually depart for other lands. And rather than focusing on Canterbury, or the place we are headed, we can rest in the knowledge that God who is in all things, is already with us! God who loves us infinitely has not deserted us, but give us the sun to light our path, trees to rest under, streams of cool water, and those tiny wildflowers which grow along the road.

Join us on this journey - for we are already living in the love of God! and there is joy to be found as we stand in solidarity seeking liberation and hope for ALL people. There are plenty of wildflowers for all!