Can We Talk?
By Rev. Cindy Marino
So, what’s the deal with The United Methodist Church and the Issue of homosexuality? And do we really have to talk about it at Grace?
From the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) eNews: “You are invited to a critical conversation in today’s life of our church. On Saturday, September 16, at Naperville Grace UMC, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader will lead clergy and laity from the Northern Illinois Conference as we discuss who we are as part of the body of Christ, specifically The United Methodist Church. The purpose of the event is to discuss questions of identity, purpose, and mission as we think about the challenges that our differences around human sexuality present us in The United Methodist Church. This is not an educational event on homosexuality but on ecclesiology – the study of the mission of the church. Laity and clergy alike are invited.”
When the conference office called to ask if Grace would offer space for this conference, I knew that it was a Northern Illinois Conference event with the bishop, whom I trust and greatly respect. I realize that, even though we lovingly welcome all people, the people of Grace UMC are not of one mind on the issues of marriage and ordination for those who are homosexual.
Whatever your views, there is much at stake for The United Methodist Church, for all of us. The future structure of the UMC is being discussed by The Commission on a Way Forward, approved at the 2016 General Conference and slated to present their recommendations at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference.
At the heart of their task lies the question, “How will we organize ourselves around issues upon which we disagree?” In our divided culture, there certainly are many issues from which to choose. The conversation around who we are and what unites us as the body of Christ is vital for all to consider.
As your senior pastor, I challenge you to find within you the empathy to hear, understand and articulate the view of someone with whom you disagree. That means getting into the hearts and minds of those on all sides of the conversation. Here are two books that will provide some insight:
1. Unashamed and Unafraid, Facing the Future of United Methodist, by Rev. Wil Cantrell. This is a good place to begin for those unfamiliar with the arguments on all sides and looking for a fairly objective overview. It’s a quick read. Cantrell is a pastor in The UMC from Knoxville, TN, and was a delegate at General Conference in both 2012 and 2016. His book presents background material that helps make sense of how the issues have developed over time. He offers a brief description of the main positions of the traditionalists, progressives and centrists.
2. Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality, Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness, put together by The UM General Board of Higher Education. This book delves into deeper theological arguments and is being recommended by Bishop Sally Dyck in preparation for the discussions on Sept. 16. The format allows for a 4-week study and there is a study guide available.
You are welcome to contact the church office (630-355-1748) or me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for help in ordering the books, setting up a study for an existing group, or organizing a new study group.
I believe this congregation’s greatest strength is its ability to disagree in love. What unites us and makes that possible is our belief in a God that has created us in God’s image to love one another as God loves us. I am looking forward to great conversation!