I want to begin this post by sharing what I wrote in Smith Valley’s weekly newsletter this afternoon, and then go a little further down the road with the discussion.

In many ways, this has been a very difficult week.  As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, members of the United Methodist Church from all over the world have been meeting in Portland, OR for General Conference, the meeting that is held once every four years to determine the doctrine and polity of the United Methodist Church.  Hundreds of petitions have been discussed – some have passed, some have been altered, some have been set aside.

Every time General Conference rolls around, we see demonstrations from people on one end of the theological spectrum who are hoping to change the position that the UMC has held regarding human sexuality, in particular, it’s official stance regarding homosexuality.  By the end of the General Conference, most of their fights and demonstrations result in no fruit, and the UMC has retained its stance.

This week, the topic once again came up.  It has been increasingly clear that the far left and the far right are not going to budge.  There is no desire to find a way to meet in the middle, and it seems as though this is the General Conference where everything has come to a head.

Yesterday, after some very intense debate, a motion to hold off on any discussions on human sexuality and refer it to a special commission to be formed by the Council of Bishops, and to call a special session of the General Conference in 2-3 years to find a way forward for the denomination, finally passed (after a similar motion failed just a couple hours before).

What does all of this mean for Smith Valley?  Frankly, right now, it doesn’t mean anything.  It means that some serious discussions and recommendations are going to be made, but nothing of substance will change for the next few years.  And, as I said last week, regardless of what happens, we will still be here, the Church in the Valley, welcoming, following and changing lives and the world.

I couldn’t help but think, as I watched all of the proceedings unfold, that somehow the United Methodist Church was looking a whole lot like the United States of America.  People, who stand on polar opposite sides on issues, bickering and fighting to get their way.  Laying out ultimatums, convinced about how right they are.  Whether they are trying to “Make America Great” or “Feel[ing] the Bern” or… whatever Hillary’s slogan is, people feel very passionately about “their” candidate.  I think the violence and protests at some of the Trump rallies have put that on display for us quite well.  Passion, when unchecked, can easily boil over into something else entirely.  In the same way, people, who are very passionate about their perspective, seem willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that their point of view becomes/stays the dominant point of view – to the point that they aren’t very Christian about it.

One thing I have noticed about the Council of Bishop’s proposal which finally did pass is that there are a lot of people who aren’t certain.  I’ve seen people on the left and people on the right express some trepidation, which tells me that it was perhaps the right move to make.  Any time you can get both sides to express some uncertainty, then perhaps there is a way to move forward.  And, I guess we’ll find out.

What does the future of the United Methodist Church hold?  Honestly, I have no clue.  It’s possible that there would be a way forward that would focus on the unity of the Church – sure, everybody may get upset by it, but maybe that’s a good thing.  Because one thing that I have seen over and over again is people saying things like, “my church wouldn’t…” or “my church would…” and I think we’ve lost an important perspective – it’s not “my” church; it’s God’s.

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