Sunday, April 15, 2018

Another resource for Courageous Conversations in The Way Forward

Last week I wrote a blog post entitled "The Way Forward" that came out of Thursday's clergy meeting.  I included links to resources that had been mentioned in the meeting and others that I found.  It doesn't include everything, but maybe some of the resources will lead to dialogues.  In the post I admitted that I hadn't read any of the United Methodist books on the topics.  Over the weekend I ordered Wil Cantrell's book, Unafraid and Unashamed: Facing the Future of United Methodism.  I figured that would be a good place to start.

If you haven't seen my blogpost "The Way Forward" from 4/13/18, you can read it by clicking here.

Here is a link to Wil Cantrell's book site to check out his book: Unafraid and Unashamed.

This morning I thought about a resource I read and wanted to share it.  However, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back and add it to an already long post or start a new one.  Obviously, I chose the latter.

The resource I want to share is David Gushee's Changing Our Mind.  I read the 2nd edition a few months back, but I understand there is a 3rd edition out. I recommend this later edition because it includes a 5 week study guide, which is great for any group wishing to use it or even an individual desiring to use the questions to dig deeper.  Now I need to look into the 3rd edition myself.

2nd edition
I first heard of David Gushee when I read his book, Still Christian: Following Jesus out of American Evangelicalism (2017).  As an evangelical ethicist, I found his views on things worth the reflection.  When I learned he had written Changing Our Mind, I decided to check it out.  [All references below will be to the 2nd edition.]

What I found refreshing was that Gushee wasn't attempting to change anyone's mind.  His mind had changed over time.  He shared from his experience, from Scripture, from study.  He brought the facts to the table for discussion.  Much like the courageous conversations I learned about this past week at the clergy meeting where we come together to listen to one another.

In reading Gushee's book, the phrase "the way forward" or "a way forward" was used several times and though it isn't a United Methodist resource, it struck me that his book could be used as part of the studies for the way forward.

The first time the phrase stood out to me was in the introduction by Matthew Vines: "By addressing the core concerns of conservative Christians with respect and reasoned argument, Gushee points the way forward beyond the church's current impasse." (xxv, italics mine)

The second time I noticed this phrase, it was Gushee speaking in Chapter 3: "I hope my explorations can be helpful to individuals and churches seeking a way forward." (23, italics mine)  It was here that I wondered to myself, jotting down this question in the margin: "Is the UMC "way forward" group using his book?"  From what I have seen on the few website links I have found, I don't think his book has been used in the process, but it seems like it would be a good one to add to the mix, as he deals with the topic in a very clear and thorough manner.

At the end of Chapter 6, Gushee notes: "But regardless of your stance on the sexual ethics issues, if you have stayed with me so far, I hope you will agree that all Christians ought to be eager to offer well-informed understanding and hospitality to people of non-heterosexual orientation and identity in our families and churches.  Anything short of that is not consistent with the requirements of the Gospel." (360)

That caught my attention.  Aren't we supposed to offer hospitality to all?  Isn't that who we are, what we do as the body of Christ?

A couple of years back I had the opportunity and privilege to participate in a Conference training for Welcoming the Immigrant.  We planned for two training sessions in our Conference.  Though the focus for that training was the "other" in terms of language, culture, and country, as the church, we have the opportunity and responsibility to show the love of Christ to all that come through our doors.  And, because we don't wait for people to come through the doors, we are to go into community and show love and offer hospitality, meeting people where they are.

[PDF for Immigrant Welcoming Communities]

Yet, have you heard of Christian churches and/or families rejecting people because they were different in some way?  It isn't just a "gay" issue, though that seems to be an easier focus/target.  We have a hard time accepting and extending hospitality to any "other".

If you think you'd be willing to check out Gushee's book, you will be encouraged to note his stance on the culture: "my goal is not to accommodate culture, but to meet my responsibilities before God as a Christian leader." (16)

Gushee wants people to converse.  I believe his book is a courageous conversation starter.

In Chapter 7 he offers six options for churches in dealing with gay people.

In Chapter 8 he recognizes that this might be the point where some people get off the bus, so to speak.  Yet, before they quit reading, he gives everyone some homework to do.  After listing the seven items of homework he writes, "If this is where you get off the bus, please go with a new sense of resolve and love to serve LGBT people and to make your family, friendship group, and church a safe and loving place for everyone--and to resist the easier path of silence or indifference." (47)

For those that are willing to keep reading, he dives into the Scriptures next.

As with the information I shared the other day in my post "The Way Forward", I share this from David Gushee's book in hopes that it might jump start conversations.

I don't know where the United Methodist church is heading.  It doesn't know where it is heading.  What I do know is that I am called to love God and to love others as myself.

In order to love others, I need to be willing to get to know them, to spend time listening to them, to hear their stories.  I need to continue spending time listening to the One Voice who knows and loves me best.  I need to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to teach me anew.

In addition to attempting to live into the greatest commandment to love God and the second one like it, to love others as myself, Micah 6:8 plays a big role for me as I seek to show hospitality to others:

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (NIV)

May it be so.

Blessings on your journey,


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