With the election of the first lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church, a few people have asked me, “What are you going to do?” My answer has always been the same: “I am going to continue doing what God has called me to do.”
It’s really as simple as that. I am not a political person (though I find politics fascinating). I do not feel like rehashing the same arguments I’ve read for years to “prove” that “my side” is right. As a church, we have publicly debated the issue of homosexuality for 44 years and heels have been dug in, minds made up. Nothing I say or do will change that.
I certainly am sad to see this grand old denomination hurtling toward an impasse. This is the church that started as a revival spark by the Wesleys, and fanned into flame by lay preachers and intrepid circuit riders. This is the church that welcomed women as spiritual leaders, battled social ills such as slavery and child labor, and preached the Gospel of repentance and salvation in Christ.
On a personal note, this is the church I grew up in. My parents were charter members of a Methodist church in Oklahoma that nurtured me through elementary school and pre-adolescence. One of my earliest memories was sitting on the lap of a white-haired woman named Mrs. Carmichael, who sang nursery rhymes to me while my folks attended worship. I fondly remember confirmation classes, Christmas Eve candlelight services and, of course, potlucks. As the old saying goes, “wherever two or three Methodists are gathered, a chicken will die.” This is also the church that welcomed me after years of wandering in the far country as a prodigal son. I was married in a United Methodist Church and my kids were baptized and raised in the same.
But I will not be embroiled in arguments, political maneuverings or cyber shouting matches. Whether the United Methodist Church splits or dies, God is still in control and the Body of Christ will still stand. The Kingdom is bigger than a sect, no matter how large it gets. A Christian must not be penned in by an ecclesiastical label, political camp or personality cult. We must be defined by our passion for Jesus Christ and His mission. For me, that means I must resist the desire to jump into middle of a controversy that has generated more heat than light, and focus instead on getting out of my comfort zone to associate with the least, the lost, the last (Luke 19:10).
I am not trying to smugly put myself about the fray. I certainly have my opinions but, in the end, my opinion will not change the trajectory of this matter. I feel I have something more pressing to do: that is, every day I must keep my own finish line in sight: “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
I refuse to wring my hands, point a finger or cluck my tongue. My feet have work to do. I must run a race that has been laid out for me, and no other. You have your own race, too. Run it to win it. Run it for an audience of One.