A new look, a new year, a new beginning.
Those were the words I chose to start this new conference year, and just like the Holy Spirit, things changed and God has laid on my heart a new word.
While I was on vacation the Supreme Court of the United Stated declared the Marriage Equality Act was valid and opened the door for change in our country. Many of the Superintendents wrote to their pastors on Friday and Saturday offering words of encouragement and words of direction as we move forward. I read the hundreds of posts of Facebook, and on my Flipboard I read the many news stories. I read from Christians and non-Christians, from LGBTQ and from those who are not LGBTQ; I read words from Bishops around the country and from politicians in the far-flung corners of the globe.
Obviously our Bishop, B. Michael Watson's words touched my heart profoundly, and I wish to share them with you here:
"I might also add that often we need to be reminded that our United Methodist Church is a global body and not simply a U. S. church, and it is not at all unusual for the legal, moral, and spiritual to be in tension in our various countries.
You, and all of our pastors and people, are in my prayers as we constantly seek to help each other live with current reality. Life is not easy at any time, but we must live with the perplexities of our time trusting in the Holy Spirit's guidance to enable us to minister to all people in the light of God's love, mercy, and grace. I am grateful that you are helping your people do exactly that.
May the presence and power of the Holy Spirit fill you to overflowing as you lead your people. --"
Another Episcopal leader whose words spoke to me was Debra Wallace Padgett, the Episocpal leader of the North Alabama Conference. I hope she will not mind me taking her words and thoughts and bringing a few twists to them.
How I appreciate your ministry in the church and community. You are making a positive difference for Christ in the Atlanta Emory District and beyond. I write this blog as your Superintendent very much aware that some our sisters and brothers are disappointed and some are celebrating, while others are ambivalent about the Supreme Court's decision on Friday.
Whatever your perspective on this matter, I am thankful for how deeply connected we are as followers of Jesus Christ. Indeed, our shared experience of serving the living Jesus is greater than any differences we have.
I know that most of our clergy are very clear about their ordination vows in relationship to the Supreme Court decision, even as it places some in a sensitive place with members of their congregations. Even so, I have received questions about how the Supreme Court decision affects the United Methodist position on same gender marriage. It does not change the position. It neither requires nor grants the right for our clergy to perform same gender weddings or for them to be held in our churches. Only the General Conference, which represents the worldwide United Methodist Church, determines our response to social issues.
One of the defining characteristics of the United Methodist Church is our interaction with societal matters. In the days ahead I encourage us to continue to reach out to all persons, within and outside of the church, whatever their sexual orientation or beliefs about marriage.
I pray that we will be known as people who show one another great patience and love even as we deal with our differences. May we love each other as Christ loves us (John 13:34-35). I also pray that we will be known as people who fulfill the church's mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (Matthew 28:19-20). As we do so we will continue to make a positive difference in the world for Christ.
I thank Bishop Wallace-Padgett for these words and hopefully allowing me grace in their adaptation to our district and for each one of you.
I am humbled and privileged to serve as your Superintendent for another year. May we join in holy conversation and prayer together as we serve a loving and mighty God.
The best is God is with us ... and ahead of us,