Pastor’s Ponderings

We are called to live out our lives in faithful community with one another, Jesus says when one or two are gathered in his name, the Christ presence is there too.  Community is an essential part of our faith lives, it is in loving one another, supporting one another, serving one another, worshiping together, and learning together that we grow in our faith journeys.  Jesus calls us to love one another as he loves us. But being community together is not always easy, whether it is in our own local church or in our global United Methodist Church.  This week was a reminder of the struggles we have sometimes in being christian community together, but it was also a reminder of our call to love and serve one another through the midst of life.

The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church ruled on April 28 on challenges to the election and consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto, the first openly gay bishop in our denomination.  The ruling is long, complicated, and reaffirms that we are not of one mind concerning the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life of the church.  In summary, the council ruled that Bishop Oliveto’s episcopal consecration violates church law.  The council did not however remove Bishop Karen Oliveto as bishop, recognizing that the due process for reviewing her qualifications for ministry lies in the disciplinary review process handled by the Western Jurisdiction college of bishops.  Bishop Oliveto therefore is still serving as Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area Annual Conferences, pending the results of that disciplinary review process.  While the Judicial Council has ruled that her consecration as bishop violated church law, our church’s leadership, especially the Western Jurisdiction college of bishops continue to be in discernment about how God is calling us to respond to this question.  We pray for wisdom, compassion, and clarity as they discern how to move forward with this important matter.

So what does that mean for us at Asbury?  It means that our denomination continues to struggle with this topic that has long been divisive, hurtful, and frustrating for many.  It means that we continue to discern what it means in our own local context to be welcoming and affirming of God’s unconditional love for all, especially for LGBTQ folks, in a denomination that continues to exclude specifically LGBTQ people from some areas of church life.  I know we hear the news of this Judicial Council ruling with many different feelings, some may feel sadness, some anger, some disappointment, some relief, some confusion.  But Christian community has never meant agreeing completely on all matters of faith and life.  Instead Christian community means being united in one important common ground: our commitment to following Jesus and the two commandments he gave: love God and love neighbor.  We take the time to feel whatever it is we feel in light of this ruling, acknowledging those emotions as valid and important.  But we also can take this as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to  the kind of love that does not fail when things get hard but endures, the kind of love that sees life and hope even in the darkness and tomb, the kind of love that in the end prevails and brings healing and justice.

One thing we take away from this decision is that we will continue to wrestle faithfully around this topic in community together as a denomination. May we do so guided by the compassion, love, and justice that Jesus Christ showed and taught. We pray for a day when all people are welcomed into the United Methodist Church with nothing less than God’s abundant love. The road ahead is long, bumpy, and hazy but we do not walk it alone. We walk it with our sisters and brothers in Christ, with community of faithful people standing up for love and justice. And we walk it with God. We remember that best of all God is with us, even now.

-Pastor Chelsea


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