… whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed. The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we are looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:16-4:2 (CEB)
I am equipped with incredible communication tools both contemporary and ancient in my pastoral toolbox. I have this newsletter you are reading right now. I get to create and share devotional, informational, and inspirational content each week. Perhaps my most resonant means of communication is the pulpit from which I am able to proclaim this hope we share in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus each week.
Yet I am also aware that those tools are not built for dialogue. They are mine, and they are useful for upbuilding and edification, but they are also limited. I can not speak for everyone in the congregation. For example, it wouldn’t be fair of me to say “The people of Flemington United Methodist Church stand fast in our opposition to water chestnuts.” I can’t stand water chestnuts, but many of you likely (for some reason) love them.
I’ve been wrestling with these ideas as I seek to fulfill my responsibility as your pastor to articulate just what happened at General Conference this past week. The headlines about we “people called Methodists” have been expectedly difficult to read. The final vote in favor of the “Traditional Plan” was 53%-47%, the “One Church Plan” which was recommended by the Council of Bishops was defeated by roughly the same close vote. We will learn more in the weeks, months, and years to come, but something significant just happened in Saint Louis. In our day-to-day practice of ministry, however, nothing has changed. We are exactly where we were last week.
I can’t speak for the denomination; only the General Conference can. I can’t, in total fairness to you all, speak for this church. I am grateful for every one of you and the different perspectives, experiences, and stories you have brought me and taught me of where God’s grace has shown up, transforming your life. I know we do not all think alike in all things, and yet we love and care for each other in Christ.
I can speak for myself. I am disappointed. I believe our witness is at its most compelling and prophetic when we make space at the table for everyone. I have been taught, shaped, prayed for, and encouraged by beautiful, faithful LGBTQIA people. The Triune God we love continues to call these people into ministry, and we are blessed they have been called to minister within our denomination. I will continue to pastor our entire church and all of this beautiful community to which I am appointed, with special care and attention to our brothers and sisters on the margins who have just been told once more that they are an issue and not the gift they fundamentally are.
But again: this newsletter is a one-sided conversation tool. I welcome anyone or any group who would like to talk about any of this further to contact me directly. We can meet at church, get coffee, or talk on the phone. I also invite everyone to pray for one another, to pray for me, and to pray for God to guide us all in our work at Flemington UMC, together. We celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus once more this Sunday before entering the 40 sacred days of Lent on Ash Wednesday. This is time for growing in faith, in trust, and in hope. God bless you all: you are all loved.
Grace and Peace,