I was not raised Methodist. In fact, I am a Presbyterian by birth. The loving husband jokes that I was predestined to be Methodist. Our flavor of Presbyterian was very conservative – no women served on the session, women didn’t even act as ushers or count the offering. It was considered unseemly. And I will never forget the divisiveness of strong opinion between my Presbyterian parents, Baptist and Episcopalian grandparents and Pentecostal cousins. No Methodist in the mix at all until I married a Methodist. And as impressed as I was by the use of the casserole by the Baptists, the use of wine and cheese parties by Episcopalian Sunday Schools and the stiffness of the upper lips of the Presbyterians – I was amazed by the inclusiveness, the openness and the apparent unity of the Methodist church. I was befuddled and astounded that the Methodist church has two (count ‘em two) statements of faith in the Book of Discipline -- One from the former Methodist Episcopal Church and one from the United Brethren Church. And I was just as amazed by the fact that no one else was bothered by this. Unity seemed to be of paramount importance. It was the first time I had ever heard the phrase “agree to disagree” used peacefully and then watch the parties in question go and worship together and have communion in unity. Amazing.
However, the Methodist church is a big church. Big. 8 million or so in the states (is that correct?) Big. And as with a big ship, course changes occur slowly. Something of this mass and size cannot move swiftly. And just as well – course changes take a lot of energy and time. If the course is found to be incorrect, it could be a long time before the behemoth gets back on course. And little currents that swirl around this great ocean liner will not effect the course tremendously. The “God is Dead” issue of the 1960’s was, all in all, a little current in thought. The currents and eddies and whirlpools that occurred around woman’s ordination and unification in 1968 did change the course slightly, but the ship is really back on course – off to set sail and make fishers of women and men.
I have heard a lot of rhetoric around about homosexuality. About ordinations issues, lifestyle issues. Around 150 years ago there was a lot debate about slavery. 125 years ago, the issue was the Masons. 100 years ago, Methodist got all fired up about social justice. Each of these issues were sorted out, given sufficient space and time. And sorted out in a manner that gave God honor. I will state, right here and now, that I have faith. I have faith in God and faith in the system, faith that things will be sorted out. Yes, passengers may leave the cruise. Passengers may join up after we set sail. Yet the important part remains – are we going to be able to sit down to dinner together? At the table there will be descendents of slaves – and descendents of slaver owners. There will be Masons and ordained women -- and homosexuals and homophobes. I wonder if we can give this issue time and space -- and trust that it will be sorted out so that God will be given honor.
In the meantime, the table is set. Come, let us join the feast.