Remembering the Jerusalem council, 45 C.E., the Apostle Paul shared, “We didn’t give in… for a single moment, so that the truth of the gospel would continue to be with you (the uncircumcised).” (Galatians 1-2) The Acts of the Apostles, along with Paul’s letters, tells how the church set aside its received traditions to embrace persons once excluded by legal litmus tests. Paul, Barnabas, and Titus caucus with the “influential leaders” while fighting hard for full inclusion. It is hard to do two or three things at once, but, I believe, God is calling Belmont to steadfastly resist denominational exclusivity while simultaneously reaching out in Christian unity. UMC Next invited us “to practice being the kind of church we long to belong to,” so we stand up for justice, reach out in love, and move forward with our common work.
Earlier this week, John Pearce, Rev. Greg Bergquist (of GBHEM), and I traveled to the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City for UMC Next. We joined 616 leaders, ten from each US Annual Conference. We listened around tables, employed connecting technology, absorbed testimonies, worshipped, and prayed. We acknowledged our incomplete task of fully including female and non-white persons inside our UM Church. We identified a deep need to revive orthodox scriptural interpretation (context, community, wideness, tradition, experience, reasoning, the Spirit) to counter a rising tide of narrowing discordant proof-texting. We planted seeds of deeper connections and coalesced around a credo:
“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. “
These are the Four Commitments of UMC Next. You can read more about my experience in Kansas City on my blog (pastorpaulpurdue.com). Check out UMCNext.com as well! On Sunday, June 16, Greg, John, and I will share our reflections on UMC Next in the Community Center at 9:15 a.m. We want to share more about the lessons we took from the gathering and about how we can begin working on implementation, resistance, communication, coalition actions, and plans. We invite you to join us for the discussion – and for the tasks to come!
UMC Next offers important work…. work that I believe Belmont needs to lean into, even as we do not “for a single moment” waiver from our missional commitment to fully embrace all persons. And yes, we continue to strive for justice and peace, even while we send the Open Door Singers on tour, plan for Vacation Bible School, and embrace 363 different ways to serve God and neighbor. Come help us transform the world! Amen.