Pastor Gregg Kohlhepp — — ph 814- 857-2987
Looking for Priorities
It has been an important and challenging time for our denomination. I know that many of you are satisfied in the aftermath of General Conference, believing that orthodoxy was rightly maintained and honored. I know that many others of you are hurting, believing that discrimination was further institutionalized. I know that still others of you are caught somewhere in the middle, not even knowing quite what to feel, but sensing that your spirit is unsettled
I would ask that we all prayerfully consider the following priorities:
1. Open your heart to the fact that many souls are devastated by the church’s decision to adopt the Traditional Plan. Over the last several days, many have begun to question their relationship with the United Methodist Church. Some have already made the decision to leave. I am asking you to be sensitively and prayerfully aware of pain that is probably not very far away from you.
2. If you are a traditionalist, I greatly respect the sense of gratitude that you most likely have for an outcome that supports your heartfelt theological convictions. But, please, do not rejoice in this, as though the vote were a victory in a battle. Instead, allow the pain that others are experiencing to soften your heart and remind you that, if one part of the Body of Christ is suffering, the entire Body of Christ is suffering.
3. Reach out to those in your family and church family who are broken over this in one way or another. Help them to know that they are seen, heard, and valued. If you are a progressive, reach out to the traditionalists who have been wounded by the dynamics of our divided church. If you are a traditionalist, reach out to progressives who are now living in a denominational plan that feels painfully disenfranchising to them. If you are a centrist, reach out to the people on either side of you.
4. Be intentional about building respectful and attentive relationships with the LGBTQ souls whose lives intersect with yours. If they have heard anything at all about what has transpired within the denomination, they most likely feel particularly vulnerable or marginalized at present. Your willingness to love them and to be loved by them may be some of your most urgent discipleship in the days ahead.
5. Commit to making your church a place of radical hospitality for all people, irrespective of your stance on homosexuality. Start conversations in your church about what it means to communicate to every person who walks through your church’s doors that, no matter who they are, they are in a place where they will be honored, protected, and loved.
6. Whatever your theological persuasion, resist the temptation to become so absolutely certain of your own rightness that you lose the capacity to engage with the hearts and minds of those on the other side of a variety of issues. We are a diverse church, after all, where Jesus is busy sanctifying conservatives and progressives, gay people and straight people, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. We cannot afford to waste time bowing at the altar of self-certainty.
7. Finally, breathe in and out the Gospel Truth—that Jesus Christ is still Lord; that he loves us with a love that will not let us go; and that nothing has transpired that has taken us beyond the scope of what God will beautifully redeem.
No matter your theological perspective, friends, I am alongside you in this. My deepest desire is for the authentic connection of our hearts as we learn from one another, nurture one another, and follow Jesus together.
Shared with permission from Eric Park, Butler District Superintendent