If a government can shutdown, I wonder: Can a denomination?
In a month and a few days, delegates from around the world will gather in St Louis to try to chart the course for the United Methodist Church. At issue is how United Methodists respond to certain aspects of homosexuality.
There are “Traditionalists” who view homosexuality as a sin and want to make sure the church doctrine strongly reflects this. There are moderate “One Church Plan” folks who advocate letting conferences and churches choose whether or not to allow gay marriages and ordinations. There are “Simple Plan” folks who want to remove all restrictive language and any barriers for LGBTQ people all together. There are any number of variations on these themes, represented by the 78 petitions delegates will have to examine at this February meeting.
What if they can’t make a decision? What if our delegates remain just as log-jammed as the rest of our denomination appears to be? What if there’s no consensus, or even a majority, and we’re just stuck?
This is a possibility, by the way, and I honestly don’t know what the Way Forward would be in such a situation. Maybe we’d just…
You know? Like the government? If we can’t agree and can’t move forward, maybe we’ll just have a shutdown. A partial denominational shutdown.
Can you picture it?
- Churches would get filthy. With no one to empty the trash, our sanctuaries would start to look like neglected national parks.
- Ministries would be crated while people on opposite sides tried to compromise on what our priorities are supposed to be. Until the higher-ups get things figured out, all our local churches could offer is fellowship time. But no donuts.
- Pastors and staff would show up for a week or so, but then we’d start calling in sick. You’d see us taking temp jobs at coffee shops, trying to strike up a conversation about religion. You’d drive through Taco Bell and find your preacher handing you your order, winking and tossing in extra salsa packets.
Nope. No way. I don’t know what we face in the next few weeks, but a shutdown is not in the picture. Unlike our government, the Church doesn’t close. Discipleship does not get furloughed. Good News is not subject to a budget.
You or I may stumble, or change course, or lose our way, but the Church of Jesus Christ continues its mission. Remember what Jesus says to Peter?
“…and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” –Matthew 16:18b
I take that to mean that we are, and will remain OPEN FOR BUSINESS. The business of saving souls. Transforming lives. If we strain, we’re still open. If we split, still open. If things change…or don’t change, we’re still open.
Be sure to let people know that. In your giving, and working. In your loving and witnessing. Christ’s work doesn’t stop, even when Christians argue, or worse.
See you on the job.
Maybe I’ll even bring donuts.
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