Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Warning from the Riven Tree

I am not a theologian. I am not a spokesperson for the United Methodist Church. I have a history of teaching adult Sunday School classes and I led two years of a four year Disciple Bible Study, but my credentials for even those things lie only in my propensity to say YES before thinking things through.

I'm also not terribly interested in church law where those laws and rules were made by committee. Necessary evils, those, where human institutions are concerned, but hardly the stuff on which I pin my hope of salvation. 

I was raised in the Presbyterian Church but joined the United Methodist Church when I was a teenager. My best friend was a member there, and when you are a teenager who tends to be on the outside of every social circle there is, having one best friend becomes theology enough for a change. 

I was married in the same United Methodist Church I had joined so many years before. My family committed the souls of my Grandmama and Mama to God's care there before committing their bodies to the earth. My husband and I presented one of our children for baptism there, and both our sons stood at that same altar to be confirmed in the faith. I was privileged to witness my granddaughter's baptism from the same pew on which I sat when her father and mother were married. 

My husband and I moved our membership to another United Methodist Church in another city for a few years, after he had left the Baptist Church of his childhood. When we returned to my hometown, we visited another UM congregation for quite awhile before realizing that the church in which we had wed felt like home, and there we've remained for all these years. 

I love the United Methodist Church. I appreciate the freedom it gives me to enter into a relationship with God and my Christ that may look different than other's relationships. It has given me a framework  in which to walk through dark nights of my soul without losing my way. My faith is not a stagnant thing, it's a living thing, and this truth seems to me to be validated and celebrated in the United Methodist Church more than in any other in my experience. That doesn't mean it is the right or best path for anyone else, and I celebrate that denominational differences meet other people of faith in their own way. I'm used to sitting in a pew with folks with whom I see few things eye-to-eye, but with whom I share a faith in the things neither of us can see. 

The United Methodist Church is struggling right now over matters of sexuality that threaten to tear opposing camps apart. A proposal has been made by United Methodist pastor and author Adam Hamilton that there is, in fact, A Way Forward through all of this, and after reading through his proposal I find I am in agreement with him.  It's not a perfect solution, and I suspect that many church leaders fear mass exoduses from their congregations if they don't pick the right one for themselves. It's a valid concern, because each congregation has a budget to meet, and I don't mean that with any cynicism: there are folks whose livelihoods depend on their jobs as support staff for each of these houses of worship who have no say in how this goes who could be affected by mass exoduses, should that happen. 

I believe in my heart of hearts that the current stance of the United Methodist Church--we love homosexuals, just so long as they don't, you know, want to do the things that heterosexuals do, like commit their lives to one another or answer a call to ministry--smacks of the same sort of thinking that would keep people of color in slavery, women from the pulpit, and folks with skin diseases only allowed to come as far as the curb on Sunday mornings. The true ills of society rest in poverty, violence, injustice, and sub-par education for "the least of these." If we would only take our passion about the issue of homosexuality and redirect it to these things that truly do destroy families, we'd do something that really would glorify God.

I want to assure my pastoral staff that if Way Forward, or some incarnation of it, is ever adopted and my home church decides to hold fast to the status quo, I still would not leave it for rainbow colored pastures elsewhere, at least not simply for that decision, and I can't help but think that others might not feel exactly the same way. That may seem contradictory, but truth is, when I joined the church, I became part of a fellowship of believers who have never pretended to be of one mind about anything, and as long as we can embrace one another in spite of then it's where I'll stay. Those walls hold precious memories, and at the risk of sounding like a person prone to such, my personal cloud of witnesses lingers there and brings me peace.

On my walk this morning I ran across this tree, riven down the middle, perhaps in one of our recent storms. One half is still clinging to life; the other is dead and dry. Everything both sides need is in the part of the tree that has yet to be destroyed, but since it cannot put itself back together again it is all doomed.

We can mend our rift. We can. And we must. We have work left to do together.

Speak your minds freely; but remember, you are only making laws for the present time. 
Francis Asbury

Please note: I am certain that many who read this might be in disagreement. 

I love you anyway. 


  1. just the same old meJune 17, 2014 at 9:43 PM

    I love you Eleanor. You're beautiful.

    1. Thank you. I wish I knew who you were!


    1. Thank you for taking the time to read. Yes, the gate is narrow, and I am so grateful that God and God alone is the architect of that gate, because I expect that otherwise, all my divorced and remarried friends, and all my friends who judged others without regard to their own sins, will be awfully surprised come the final days.

  3. Replies
    1. Oops, that should have been under 'reply' just above.

    2. ...the story of the woman caught in adultery, for example. In the end, He told her to go, and sin no more.

      There is infinite wisdom in that entire story. One could contemplate, think about it, study it, til the end of time, I imagine. and still not exhaust it.