Christ will never leave or forsake us!

Greetings Holy, Healthy and Happy People of God,

As I write this eNote to our faithful and devoted community of radical and responsible followers of Jesus Christ, I reflect upon last Saturday’s assembly as our United Methodist delegates to the Special General Conference gathered in a full day of prayer.  God’s amazing grace was fully present as everyone in the room prayed together.  During the next three days, both sides, conservatives and progressives, treated each other with condemnation, disdain and hatred.  Emotions were extremely high.  I thought about the words of Paul, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1  Part of our baptismal covenant question, Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” and we responded, “I do!”

The United Methodist delegates, representing a global church, voted 54% to 46% to maintain its historical stance as recorded in our Book of Discipline, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.  Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”  Although the Special General Conference was designed and invited to discuss human sexuality and to determine the best “Way Forward” from two plans presented, human sexuality was actually never discussed.  Fear crept in and held us captive!  No wonder Jesus told the disciples in the midst of the storm, where uncertainty had set in, to fear not!  Fear is debilitating and can cause us not to see the humanity in each other.  Contrary to belief, this Special General Conference was never about human sexuality, it was about power, money and control.  Sound familiar?  These themes ran rampant in the gospels with Jesus and these themes ultimately got him crucified.

Two plans were developed, proposed, and voted on.  One plan was called The Traditional Plan (which kept the traditional language of homosexuality), which was supported by conservatives.  And the other, The One Church Plan (offered the ability for same-sex marriage if your pastor chose to exercise their conscience) that was supported by progressives.  Because we are a grace grounded people, I expected more grace from both sides.  However, each side treated the other with disdain and hatred.  The LGBTQ community left spiritually and physically wounded, which goes against Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  To anyone who left more broken and to those who said we won, my prayers are for God’s unity in the church.  Law never comes before Love because Love is the Law!

On Saturday evening, I return to Nashville and I cannot wait to see everyone this Sunday in church.  Thanks for your prayers!  I am humbled by the various comments I have received about McKendree while here in St. Louis; from remarks about being a diverse church that reflects the beloved community to meeting with the Chief Operating Officer of The Connectional Table who’s hoping that her team can soon tour the ministry and mission at McKendree.

Please don’t allow this diversion to distract us from the mission and ministry of Jesus and keep you from McKendree.  We are the beloved people of God and we need each other in this moment.  It is easy to walk away.  Satan wins when we walk away from the body of Christ.  But I’m glad that Jesus Christ never walked away from the cross and our salvation!  The church, the body of Christ, is so much greater than any denomination.  Don’t walk away.  Hear these words of good news from Isaiah 61 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”

Hear the W.O.W., the Words of Wisdom,
“Christ will never leave nor forsake us!”

Remember to pray The Lord’s Prayer every day at 12 Noon!

Be God’s Shalom,
Stephen

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