When speaking of United Methodist bishops it is often difficult to distinguish truth from satire, therefore I am compelled to offer the following advisory. WARNING – SATIRE AHEAD
(An introduction to Bishop Achrestos can be found here. I do not recall his episcopal area but I believe it is somewhere in the Southeastern U.S.)
After the General Conference, it seems there is much that divides us, but we need to keep our local churches focused on our common mission. We should not be concerned with outdated concepts of salvation that do not speak to this generation’s context, nor should we get tempted into pointless arguments over what the Bible says. Such discussions only cause people to feel excluded and are driving people away from the church. We need to reaffirm the both/and understanding of what it means to be church. We must both repent of the harm done to the LGBTQI community and find a way to welcome the checks of those who have caused this harm.
Still, there are a couple of verses that speak clearly to our current situation. One of them reminds me of an inspirational sermon illustration that I heard as a child. The preacher described the church as being like the human body. Regardless of how we feel about who God is and what he is asking of us we are all like one body united in our desire to do good things. Now regarding the body the Bible says, somewhere in the New Testament, “the left hand should not let the right hand know what it is doing.” I believe that is the verse that can guide us today. We should imagine the church as a body where the left hand is our bishops and missional institutions who are busy doing good things, and the right hand is the local church busy raising the money to do good things. If our bishops are spending time explaining what they are doing with the money then they are distracted from their work of doing good things. If the churches spend their time asking questions about what our seminaries teach or what our missionaries do, then they are distracted from doing the work of raising money to do good things. If we are truly the body of Christ then we will be obedient to the words of our Lord and Savior, “The left hand should not let the right hand know what it is doing “
Another guiding verse we can trust is found when a woman has just poured an expensive oil on the feet of Jesus. Scripture asks us, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” All of us can learn from this that whatever we imagine God to be… Father Sky and Mother Earth, Parent on High, Spirit of the Universe, or a bigoted Palestinian Jew who was transformed by his encounters with oppressed minorities… we should not let these issues polarize us. As United Methodists we can all participate together in doing good things. The most effective way to accomplish this work for the Kingdom is by making checks payable to the conference treasurer.
Stay focused on your local church mission. We are stronger together than apart. Make disciples for the transformation of the world. Open hearts, open minds, open doors. May the Force be with you.