Although, it would have much easier for the UMC Next conceiving team to lay out a detailed statement of faith and set of action plans during our time in Kansas City, we took time to listen. We sought to hear from God and each other before hoisting the seeds of a new methodist movement into God’s Holy Wind. Listening takes time. Listening builds relationships. Spiritual living, discernment, birth, trust, friendship, community, mutuality, coalescing and movements all take time. Our national culture has become one of echo chambers amplify and repeating back to the speaker, their own voice. God invites us into blessed community; wherein we sing together in a sacred harmony- each voice listening for the others voices and adjusting it’s pitch and tone so as to loving uphold every voice. Such blending tunes our’ ears and our hearts. If we long to be heard, then we must become a community that listens.
We listened to the cries for racial reconciliation that stretch back past 1787. We heard how Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, Methodist lay speakers, were pulled off prayer kneelers. We acknowledge how even 232 years later, racism, sexism,class-ism, homophobia and other systemic evils haunt our churches. Some churches still say we are not ready for “her” or “them”. We must do the work of listening and together addressing long neglected issues of equality: if we long to build a church, where all means all.
Wiping away my tears, I listened as a faithful church leader “came out” to her church at UMC Next. She shared stories of her five decade long love affair with our church. A church that did lot allow her to even consider her call to preach, despite 30 years of faithful love and marriage. I looked around to see my centrist and progressive tablemates weeping with me.
Because we came together to hear from each other, we found some words. We coalesced around a credo. However, we offered some 76 pages of suggested improvements and word-smithing! It was a room of 616 Methodical leaders from all over the nation!
So listen with a sympathetic and graceful ear:
“Four Commitments of UMCNext ( you can find more at UMCNext.com)
We believe these commitments are essential to a hope-filled future for the global Methodist movement as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world:
- We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, experience and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness.
- We commit to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.
- We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.
- We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together. “
Is it enough? No, there is work ahead. We have an anthem to raise and a coalition to build! Yet, I got a deep sense that centrists have now heard the cries of those those long excluded! Perhaps this is a tipping moment. I also felt a sense of “How long, Oh Lord?”. Perhaps, some local churches or some annual conferences will say, “our conscious demands we can no longer stay”. The question of leaving begs: where will we go? Many of us said, “we will must remain within the system resisting injustice, evil and oppression- while working for the creation of a new spiritual homeland.” No matter the path, we acknowledge there is much work ahead!
This NEXT UMC work is beginning and we invite sympathetic ears to join us as we seek to bring our voices together in sacred harmony. Let work until God’s welcoming song tunes every ears to justice, equality, and compassion. Beloved Belmont kindred, let us, lead with vision, dedication, and a fixed resolve to do justice. Let live as the church we long to be: listening, leading, and loving all of God’s people.
So if you ask me, I will say, “I came away with hope, and renewed sense of the goodness of my Methodist Kindred”.
Our final UMC NEXT benediction went something like this:
You are not dismissed…
You are free to go
This in not an ending, but a beginning
for God does not hold you here
God sends out to transform the world:
Walking with a listening ear
and Loving mercy