Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Mercy of Time

But the mercy of the world is time. Time does not stop for love, but it does not stop for death and grief, either. After death and grief that (it seems) ought to have stopped the world, the world goes on. More things happen. And some of the things that happen are good.
Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, 296

I turned 53 today. Thanks to all those who sent kind wishes by way of Facebook, and to the congregation at First UMC who surprised me with a singing of “Happy Birthday” during worship.
A few years ago, my daughter Sarah asked me, “What’s so great about growing up?” I recall blogging about that then, and my response was something about the richness of memory. Reading Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, I can add to my former response. Growing older, the richness of one’s memories are deepened, and growing older one can come to know the truth that the mercy of the world is time. The world goes on, things happen, and some of the things that happen are good. When I served as a youth pastor in Dallas from 1987-1994 (Ridgewood Park UMC), one of the things that struck me was that I needed to help the youth understand that no matter how difficult a time they were going through, the sun would come up the next day and they had more inner strength than they might imagine, including strength from the grace of God.
When I read the words of Wendell Berry’s protagonist, Jayber Crow, they made deep sense to me. In recent months I have worked with two families whose infant children died. Today, Chester Park United Methodist Church joined with First United Methodist Church in a new merged congregation. There is a great deal of excitement about this merger, but I also know there is heartbreak among Chester Park people whose beloved church has ceased to exist as before. This past week in Duluth, flash floods ripped through streets and gushed into homes, turning the lives of many upside down.
The mercy of the world is time. Time does not stop. Things happen, and some of them are good.
Theologically, I understand the good things that happen to be rooted in the grace of God.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Item 505

ITEM 505
Action: The Minnesota Annual Conference will express opposition to the constitutional amendment with a press release.

1. Paragraph 161F of the Book of Discipline states: “All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence.”
2. The ballot question will be: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”
3. Many civil rights are based on one’s marital status: health insurance, equal taxation, retirement benefits, and healthcare directives.
4. Hundreds of thousands of current and potential United Methodists in Minnesota would benefit from equal protection of civil rights.

Due to limits on debate on this item which were voted on by our Annual Conference, I did not have the opportunity to offer my speech in favor of item 505 – opposing the proposed constitutional amendment about marriage here in Minnesota. Here is what I planned to say.

Bishop, Members of the Minnesota Annual Conference:

We disagree about many things surrounding the legislative item before us now – what is the nature of attraction, how does the Bible and Christian faith address same-sex attraction and relationships, can we genuinely affirm the sacred worth of persons while denying them intimacy in line with their orientation?
Can we agree, though, that the church has a role and a voice in the civil discussion regarding marriage and the rights and responsibilities of all persons as they seek to form loving and caring families?
Can we also agree that Jesus calls us to wisdom – “be wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16) and to compassion – “be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36)?
I hope there is wide agreement here that this legislation, opposing the Minnesota Marriage Amendment represents wisdom and compassion.
If the marriage amendment becomes a part of our state constitution we are saying that we don’t want to continue the civil conversation about same-sex relationships and same-sex families. We are saying that we don’t want to wrestle with these challenging issues that affect our neighbors, our friends, people who work with us, people who share the pews with us on Sunday mornings. We are saying we really don’t want to ask any more about the legal status of the relationship of the same-sex parents of our children’s friends, nor do we care to discuss visitation rights when one part of a same-sex couple is in the hospital, or even in hospice.
If the marriage amendment passes we are telling our LGBTQ friends that these issues which affect their lives need to be pushed farther away from public discussion, chiseled into the founding document of our state.
I hope there is wide agreement here that this does not well represent either wise public policy or the compassion to which Jesus calls us.
Please support item 505. Thank you.

Item 505 passed at our Annual Conference by a vote of 400 to 169. I hope when this constitutional amendment comes for a vote here in Minnesota in November, there will be wide agreement that it is neither wise nor compassionate.

With Faith and With Feathers,