Homecoming

Two years ago, when I decided to take a break from the United Methodist Church, I wrote about the decision both on this blog, and on another blog convened by a friend of mine from Wales. I also wrote about my feelings of being “in exile” in the Episcopalian church – still identifying with the theology and history of Methodism, but unable to continue participating in a church culture that denied many called and gifted friends of mine – denied them an opportunity to use their gifts in service to the United Methodist Church. They needed to be honest about their desire to partner with someone of the same gender, but the church denied that it was possible for their relationships to be as blessed and life-giving as the best partnerships between men and women.

That is, the church denied it in a legal sense. The question was put to a vote – are United Methodist Christians, after prayerful scriptural discernment, still divided on “the issue of homosexuality” ? The majority at General Conference 2012 voted to deny that this is so. And since, by the law of the United Methodist Church enshrined in the Book of Discipline, one can only speak for the United Methodist Church by using those words that the General Conference votes on by majority rule, we are left with the awkward ability to assert: “The United Methodist Church has chosen not to tell the truth about how individuals associated with the church feel about same-sex relationships.” Because, after all, the vote was not unanimous. Not even nearly so. Which means that the rejected motion was precisely correct as written – while the majority of United Methodists have decided that same-sex relationships go against what God desires for us, there is a sizable minority that disagrees.

If you read my post from 2 years ago, “Invisible Methodist,” you can see how my thinking has shifted slightly on this topic. Then, I interpreted the Conference’s decision to be declaring that I, and others who agreed with me, were not thoughtful, “Bible-believing” Christians – not, in fact, United Methodists. But now, I have decided that I was disempowering myself and the rest of those who think like me by granting this power to General Conference. I had not considered the other possibility: The General Conference, and so The Book of Discipline (and thereby, from a church law perspective, the United Methodist Church) can lie. And that is what the church elected to do that day.

Denominations are fallen institutions. The United Methodist Church is not the only group with a prevarication problem. But it’s my family, and so they are the group I am concerned with at the moment.

I’m sharing this now because I am long overdue to announce: I am back with the United Methodist Church. There is a sense in which I never left, in that the entire time that I was worshipping with the Episcopalians I never officially joined the Episcopalian Church. I was following UMC news, staying in touch with UMC pastors, and reading and writing for UMC publications. But insofar as my family officially has been attending Duke Memorial UMC since before Advent, and as we joined a couple of months ago, I am connected with a local UMC congregation again.

In the midst of the ongoing debate about whether the UMC will divide over the issue of relationships between persons of the same gender, I have hesitated to announce this new congregational affiliation on the blog. I do not want for this personal action to be reinterpreted as a witness against schism. I have done no such thing. Indeed, I do not know how long a “union” can last when one group feels compelled to hide the very existence of people who disagree – or at least chooses to deny that any folks who disagree with them (including their fellow church members) are really Christian. Instead, I have decided that I shall no longer allow a narrow majority of Conference delegates be the ones to determine whether or not I am “really” Methodist. Though I have returned to United Methodist congregational life, I will not be silent when I feel that those who lead us are moving in the wrong direction.

I enjoyed my sojourn with the Episcopalians at St. Luke’s – they are a delightful family of committed Christians, and it was a privilege to be invited to join in their common life. I miss weekly Eucharist, and weekly coffee hour, and the kneelers… I miss the dear sisters and brothers I met there. But I felt called back into the happy mess that is United Methodism in the American South. I have returned to the place that, more than anywhere else, is my earthly home.

I love my job!

All three humans in the McGiverin household are sick at the moment, each with a different bug of the respiratory variety.  I had envisioned a very different week for myself than sick at home with a sick kindergartener!  But it has been a wonderful time, in many ways.  As I was snuggling my daughter on the sofa, watching Dinosaur Train while collaborating with a friend in England via text message on his plans for that evening’s Advent study, I was filled with gratitude that I was doing what I was made to do.  I texted my husband later in the day, “I love my job!”

How many of my hours each day are spent “doing what I was made to do?”  And how many are spent in willful or inadvertent turning away from doing what I was made to do?

To clarify, as per the Westminster Shorter Catechism, where is the balance of my money, time and effort found, in relation to the goal of glorifying and enjoying God?

When we remember that we are, each and every one of us, God’s own beloved children, then we are empowered to be who we were made to be, and do what we were made to do.  We are empowered to love and serve the Lord – and all creation.

For the flip side – for my thoughts on what happens when we forget we are loved, and fear that we are unlovable – see my most recent Advent reflection at the Art of Living Your Faith blog of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, NC.

To get your Sarah fix…

While I am enjoying my sabbatical, the wheels of internet publishing are still in motion.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, NC is publishing daily entries on their blog throughout Advent – brief devotionals to accompany the scripture readings from the Daily Lectionary in the Book of Common Prayer.

Today, the first of my two contributions was published.  You can find it on The Art of Living Your Faith.

Advent blessings to you all!