I am ordained in the United Methodist Church and serve a United Methodist Church and have been United Methodist my whole life. I adore Wesley’s theology of grace, the quadrilateral, and the basic Wesleyan way to live life: “Do good, do no harm, and stay in love with God.” I still feel this way, both about the church I love and about the God I serve. And yet, today, my heart is heavy.
Over the past two days our church (the United Methodist Church) has been debating the issue of ordaining and officiating weddings for LGBTQ individuals. This has been a debate in our congregation for many years and this week was the time for our greater law-making body to decide upon our future in the matter. My heart broke – mostly for the divisiveness and conflict that arose from it. Yes, there are sides to this issue and those in attendance chose their sides and voted accordingly. And, the emotions and passions felt were very real and understandable (on both sides). Yet I kept praying that we would stop looking at “the other side/point of view” as the enemy and remember that we are on the same team. We may be divided on this issue, but the greater mission and vision of the church remains in tact and I’m confident that we all agree in the beauty, validity, and hope wrapped up in that mission: The people of The United Methodist Church are putting our faith in action by making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
This mission gets lost when we begin looking at those we love as our enemy and place the issue at hand above the mission. This happens all the time. Case in point, our own United States Government. How often do we shake our head in disbelief when elected officials make their own agenda more important than the people who elected them – when they make “defeating the other side” more important than what’s best for the country? Yes, this is a sad time in our nation and in our world. When did “they” become the enemy?
So here is how this ties into marriage: your spouse is not your enemy. You may agree with that statement and find it obvious, which it is. But in the heat of an argument we tend to make the issue greater than the person we are arguing with – greater than their feelings, their opinions, and our relationship. We make “being right” about the issue more important than valuing the person we are arguing with. We simply elevate the wrong thing in an effort to get our point across and to “win” the battle. In the face of conflict, how can we do the most good, do no harm and demonstrate God’s love?
In the church and in marriage (marriage is compared to Jesus’ love for the church in a marriage ceremony) we hold sacred relationships. We are called to love our spouse in a holy covenant just as we are called to love our brothers and sisters in the same sacredness (no matter who they are, what color their skin, or what their sexual orientation is). This love is more powerful and more transformative than any argument or issue. If we elevate and value the mission and relationship above “winning” we could transform the world.
Finally, I do not want to over simplify or diminish the greater issue my beloved church is struggling through right now. I know that those who voted this week did so based on their deep rooted belief that what they voted for was the best thing for the church and how God would want our church to move forward. I have every faith that votes were made after a time of prayerful contemplation and were made with the greatest love for our church and for the people in the church and those yet to cross our thresholds. My grief stems from the hurt and broken relationships that have taken place and will most likely take place as these decisions are made manifest in our local churches. I do truly grieve.
My prayer continues today and every day that we follow Christ’s example to love and to love fully – in all aspects of our lives. May our marriages continue to be at the forefront of our prayers and may we all continue to uphold our relationships above petty conflicts.
Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God. Amen.