Reason 5 that I am #ProudtoBeUMC and will #BeUMC going forward – I believe the point of the Church is not to make “them” be like “us,” but for every child of God to be challenged and changed.
The story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10) is a clear reminder that those who share the gospel will be a least as challenged and changed as anyone who receives it. Cornelius, a God fearing man but certainly not a Christian, was baptized into the body of Christ. Peter, already a disciple of Jesus, was compelled by the Holy Spirit to give up some of his deepest assumptions about faithful living. This mutual transformation is what happens when the gospel is at work.
I would never pretend that the UMC is free from deep problems or deny that it is in desperate need of revival. We’re in a difficult season of transition that might turn out a thousand different ways and I have no idea what exactly comes next. But I also believe that a multitude of UMC leaders are faithfully seeking the renewal of our church by leaning into the challenge of encountering diversity and difference. And I believe that leaving now would mean running from the kind of gospel encounter Peter had.
I know of no biblical stories in which the true call is for us to find simplicity and comfort in the way things have always been done rather than to go out and take the risk of encountering the “others” of our faith and world. And I am convinced that the gospel’s solution to encountering a challenge from the “others” is never to assume that “we” get to remain comfortable while “they” have to conform. Often, the most uncomfortable moments plant the seeds of the most life giving change. The moment that changed everything was the moment God so profoundly refused comfort and simplicity that Jesus went to the cross, turning every expectation of what was supposed to happen upside down.
The most biblical, hospitable, Christ like thing I can think to do in a moment like this is to trust that the love and mission of God cannot be stopped – even if that means my life and ministry are the things that need to be turned upside down. I can’t imagine actually reading the Bible and coming away with any other expectation.