Who Now Will be Welcome?

Today is an unusual anniversary for me. It was on February 28th, 2010 when I officially ended my last Baptist pastorate. (From the early 1990s through 2010 I had served God as a pastor in the American Baptist Churches, USA. ) When I left the ABC that day I knew that my intention was to become a United Methodist. It would be a couple more months before I would receive my first appointment and July of 2010 before I officially started serving in the UMC at Cedar Fall First UMC as their Associate Pastor.

After starting at Cedar Falls First UMC, as soon as I was able, I started the process of transferring my orders to the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church.

During the entire process I felt very supported by the leadership of the Iowa Annual Conference. I felt very affirmed by members of the Board of Ordained Ministry who led me through the process. I felt affirmed by my District Superintendent in that process. For me it was a very welcoming and refreshing process.

Today I’m blessed to be serving in my third UMC appointment. I can say without reservation that each of the three churches I have been appointed to have been good fits for my gifts and graces. I have been blessed In my UMC service! 

During my time in the UMC I also have been proud to serve undo two fine prophet and pastoral Bishops who give great leadership as well as excellent Conference Superintendents. In short, I have felt welcomed, affirmed, blessed and proud to be serving in the Iowa Annual Conference of the UMC!

After such a wonderful experience in the UMC in Iowa, this week’s Special Called General Conference has been particularly painful and disheartening. This weeks General Conference failed to live up to my own personal experience in the UMC because the General Conference declared by its votes, its actions, its rhetoric, and its political tone that everyone will not be welcome in the UMC.

Yet I, and many many United Methodists, believe this is a complete contradiction to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I have become anything in the past nine year, I have become a Methodist. I am a Methodist because I believe deeply in the overpowering, life changing, life giving grace of God through Jesus Christ. It is a grace that runs before us and loves us before we ever respond, it is a grace that carries us through life and into the presence of our God. It is free, it is unearned, it is for everyone!

So the big question for me today is now and in the future who will be welcome? Who now will we judge worthy of being part our denomination? And can we really call ourselves Methodists if we don’t welcome everyone whom Jesus loves? Because for me being a Methodist has always and ever will be about God’s boundless love!