I have been in the car most of the day with the radio tuned to CNN. First, the announcement of the Supreme Court; then the update on the escaped inmates in the Northeast, followed by a report of the terrorist attacks on three continents; and finally, the words of comfort from the funeral of slain Charleston pastor and senator Clementa Pinckney as the congregation sang, “It Is Well with My Soul.” I needed those words. My soul, like yours, is filled with a mixture of emotions today.
Today’s Supreme Court decision to legalize same gender marriage across all 50 states is being celebrated by some; and there are others disappointed by the Court’s decision, believing that same gender marriage is wrong. As the bishop of both constituent groups today, I try to offer a pastoral word. If ever we have been called to be the Body of Christ, today is that day. Regardless of your agreement or disagreement, we are called to “Love each other like members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other.” (Romans 12:10 CEB)
The United Methodist Church struggles as a denomination on the issue of human sexuality and holds this challenging and divisive issue in tension. Can we find a way to live in this tension in a “yes/and” way versus a “yes/but” way? Not merely agreeing to disagree, but to truly live out our life as the Body of Christ?
The Supreme Court decision changes nothing as far as The United Methodist Church’s position on same gender marriage. The church’s General Conference, set to meet next year in Portland, has the authority to make such a change.
While the church must address the issues facing our communities and our world, my prayer is that we might do so in a way that distinguishes us from the world and our culture. We must treat each other as sisters and brothers in Christ who operate from a place of grace that unites and does not divide.
There is so much good happening in The United Methodist Church today, let us not allow the issue of human sexuality be that which defines us. May we remain steadfastly focused on our preferred future—leading people to an abundant life in Christ; engaging in the community; learning, living and telling the gospel story; and reaching out and drawing in people from all walks of life. Let us hold nothing sacred but the mission – to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Please join me as I pray for our church and for our nation each day at 1 p.m. We began this practice in October of 2012, and I ask you to renew your commitment to pray for The United Methodist Church, the Louisiana Annual Conference, your local congregation, your pastor, your bishop, General Conference 2016 and yourself as we discern a new way to be the church in a tension-filled time.
Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17 CEB)
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey