Fresh Freedoms

I struggle getting past the anger that rises each time I read about a congregation disaffiliating with the United Methodist Church. I ask myself rhetorical questions that turn up the inner thermostat. What is it that makes them feel they have to break fellowship with those who are just as earnestly trying to follow Christ? Why do they play the right/wrong, good/bad, divisive card?

These are just a couple of things I ponder. The Wesleyan Covenant Association/Global Methodist Church folks would have their answers, as well as questions of their own to pose. And around we go. Nothing resolved except escalating blood pressures.

I’m working on choosing another focus, though, when those stories appear in UM Insight and UM News Service. I can continue this dog-chasing-tail game each time I read one. Or, I can let the disaffiliating folks do their thing, praying that good will come from it for them and through them in some fashion. I can then put more focus on the good that will surface within United Methodism now that they are doing their own thing, apart from us.

I’m trying to focus on the fresh freedoms that lie ahead.

Freedom for letting the Bible speak for itself, instead of us speaking for it. No more treating it as a paper pope and snipping verses to prove points. No more apologizing for it, either. Just reading all of it, with the attitude of Jesus, and then marveling at its eternal freshness and relevancy.

Freedom for inviting people into discipleship through creative, authentic expressions of compassion and justice. No more demanding adherence to the letter of the Nicene Creed to pass the Christian litmus test. Now people may know we are indeed Christians by our love as well as by our professed faith. 

Freedom for being authentic with our identity. Didn’t we think it a bit hypocritical for us to have had the motto a few years ago of Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors? Now we can really be open, and not just with words but words backed up by actions.

Freedom for being a louder prophetic voice. Sometimes that voice has been muffled by the pietistic legacy of the Moral Majority movement from decades ago, mixing in “thou shalt nots” concerning homosexuality, abortion, etc. Now we can focus on those things that affect our future as well as our present, declaring more loudly Amos’s “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

The companion to anger is grief. I do grieve for the church I knew and served, because now people are fracturing it while claiming it has moved away from them. But as one person observed, “so much strength can come from paying attention to what’s happening now.” And what we’re witnessing now is the birthing pain of a church filled with promise and, especially, freedom.

5 thoughts on “Fresh Freedoms”

  1. Oh my gosh, Pastor Greg! Perfectly said!! So hard to put all that is happening into words,
    but you captured it. Thank you.

  2. I understand your pain. But folks who aren’t comfortable with the current more liberal view of LGTBQIA, are feeling unheard, unloved, and unwelcomed in many Methodist churches. So they are searching for other worship options. And if the whole church feels unwelcome in the denomination, that is why they disaffiliate. Is there a way to make both sides feel loved? I don’t know and I certainly don’t have the answers. Can pastors make everyone feel welcomed and heard? Not usually. And can the whole denomination do that too? Apparently not. Peace to you, Greg.

    • I don’t believe those that disaffiliate do so because they are unwelcome unloved or unheard. Most of whom I have spoken with want to disaffiliate because they believe their opinions are the moral majority. And I agree with Pastor Greg, it is sad to see anyone leave the church. We mourn The loss of their fellowship, but disaffiliation is an act on their part…their choice to not agree with the church. I am a very strong patriot. I love our country. But I am not naïve to think that our country is perfect. Far from it. I feel the same way about our church. I am very proud to be a Methodist. I do have issues and concerned with different things. But just as I am not leaving the country because there are a few problems, I am not leaving the church because I don’t agree with everyone. But that is the beauty of God’s love, we have the freedom to follow our own path. Very well said Pastor Greg!

  3. For me, it’s not only the divisiveness within the Methodist church, it’s the divisiveness within Christianity. Who are we to judge who is loving Christ the right way or the wrong way? Are Catholics bad, are Baptists evil? We have to have open minds and open hearts to see the good in people, even those we personally don’t think are ‘right.’ The Apostle Paul said, “For I am determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2). Let our fellowship be based on the solid foundation of Christ’s love, and emulating that love, and all else becomes secondary.

  4. Pastor Greg,
    Thank you for putting forth this heart wrenching topic. Your essay and all of the responses offer new ideas to consider.

    We are still at our Home Church still because we don’t want to jump too soon before considering the “new” ideas carefully. We are called to support what we did to keep the doors open before huffing out the door. And we are called to look at scripture carefully and study it in a community of Jesus lovers to discern the truth.
    The Moral Majority hopefully has changed from our impression of the last 30 years. You have to agree that we have moved from the Romans who burnt Christians to light the night and Puritans who rushed to judgement by burning “witches” at the stake.
    It is hard to feel the need to change to the “forbidden.” And to feel a push to do it too quickly.

    Listen to what the Bible says : love one another as I have loved you. Sounds like the guiding light. The voice in the wilderness.


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