Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Do You Know Your Family?

I'm a blessed man. I got to host our annual conference (Memphis) last week in Paducah, and this week am attending the Tennessee Annual Conference, since I am a part of an area cabinet. I've been surrounded by UMC brothers and sisters who love Jesus and love their church. And in the past two years I have seen a shift toward more grace, more harmony, and more willingness to work together as an annual conference instead of it being a ground to sew discord and challenges at any suggestion of (needed!) change. Our bishop is a huge part of that. Adopting priorities for mission and discipleship is another part of that. I believe our next challenge will be to deepen existing relationships and to be willing to make new ones - especially with those we would usually find reason not to foster such relationships.

Our recent UMC infightings, statements, and threats can be obstacles to this if we allow it.  It is so easy to dismiss and pigeonhole folks whom we perceive to be different socially and theologically - whether it be by wearing a cross or a rainbow stole around their neck, sporting a tie or a clerical collar, wearing a dress or jeans, shirts tucked in or out, cool glasses or reading glasses, clergy or lay, adult or youth.

In his book Restoring the Bride, Steve Harper reminds us of the Indian cultural tradition of the round table, where faith, hope, and love come together. It is at the heart of where all Christians should be as brothers and sisters - family. Unfortunately, we in the UMC often choose to sit at war tables, where we plan warfare to defeat whatever/whomever we think the "other" is. In other words: planning a civil war. 

We're kidding ourselves if we think the divisions are so neatly defined. And we're practicing avoidance of the worst kind to not engage our other family members whom we have avoided getting to know for so many years - and in the process learning some really bad habits that hurt us in doing the evangelistic work of making disciples of Jesus.

So instead of signing on to the latest statement - what about engaging the "other", who while being different from us, is blood-kin through the blood of Jesus Christ!

You know, we can pick our friends - but we can't pick our family. 


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