No one likes to wait. Some people may tolerate waiting better than others, but I am convinced, no one likes waiting. Just visit my hometown in Columbus, OH during rush hour traffic and you will see on the look on everyone’s face that no one likes waiting.
If you are a part of the United Methodist Church, we are in a period of waiting. This week our Judicial Council (our ecclesiastical Supreme Court) is expected to render a decision on the legitimacy of the election of Bishop Oliveto. Bishop Oliveto is a lesbian pastor who was elected to the episcopacy by the Western Jurisdictional Conference last summer. Some pray for her removal and will settle for nothing less than such. Some pray for her confirmation and will settle for nothing less. I have often wondered what goes through the mind of God when God hears conflicting and opposite prayers? A topic for another post.
Others wait, preparing for the aftermath. I fall into the latter category.
We also wait for a special General Conference in 2019 that is supposed to offer a plan for either unity or schism. So like a traffic jam, we wait for an opening in the road, a path set before us.
With the looming Judicial Council decision, I anticipate that there will not be a winner in this battle. People will feel hurt, wounded, neglected, forgotten and confused—on either side, no matter the outcome.
Some will rush to a decision. “That’s it! I’m leaving the denomination!”
Some will rush to judgement. “If they just read their Bible more clearly, they would see this issue the right way.”
Some will mourn. “This is not the church of my baptism.”
The world will look on and wonder, “Who are these Christians?”
While not to minimize the decision of the Judicial Council—they truly have an impossible task ahead of them—I wonder if we as United Methodists redirected just an ounce of our passion about issues of sexuality (on both sides) toward issues of racism, sexism, ageism, Islamophobia, health care for all people, immigration, refugees, human sex-slaves, the lost, hurting, broken and unchurched, would we be as concerned as we seem to be over preserving and creating our version of a “pure church?”
In Acts 15, the church had a big fight because things were getting complicated and messy. So they called a Council meeting. Some present were calling for a pure church, seeking to purify the practices of the Gentiles—the other, “those people.” In the midst of the debate, Peter stands up and calls an ecclesiastical Time-Out. Peter, reminds the gathered to get their eyes off of preserving the church and to get their eyes on the movement of the Spirit. Peter speaks boldly, prophetically, in words that transcend Acts 15 and resonate with us today. Get your eyes on the Spirit!
When our eyes are focused on the Spirit, we will always be surprised by what God does. What we can be assured is that when the Spirit shows up, it’s not neat and tidy. It’s messy. Organic and freeing! And it requires trust—trusting God knows way more than I/we/or any denomination can know.
So, I wonder, if perhaps the core of my tribe’s problems is a lack of trust in the Spirit? Is this not the Spirit who transforms us to be more like Jesus? Is this not the Spirit of our baptisms who confirms our unchangeable identity as daughters and sons of God? Is this not the Spirit who gives us authority to speak into the chaos of the world? Is this not the Spirit who gives us supernatural gifts to reveal the very mind and heart of God? Is this not the Spirit of the Trinity, who calls us into a community with God and each other?
Is this not the Spirit who is like a wind, blowing to and fro, always out ahead of us?
So as I wait for decisions, plans, and direction, I pray for the Spirit to come and mess up everything—to provide a new way, a way no one was even expecting. I pray that as decisions are made on behalf of the denomination I love and call home, that I will be bold enough to trust that God knows more than I know. I pray our denominational leaders will trust that the Church has always been complicated and messy, and her mess and complications are as mysteriously beautiful as the Spirit himself.
So, I wait. And I pray. Veni Sancte Spiritus.