I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the lord’s people to grasp how wide and how long and how deep is the love of Christ – Ephesians 3:17-19
These words from the letter to the church of Ephesus have been echoing in my heart these past few days. As I write these words, I am in airplane over the state of Colorado, heading back to Virginia after spending a few days in Portland, OR for the General Conference of the United Methodist Church.
For those of you who do not know what this is, it is the worldwide gathering of the United Methodist Church, which happens every four-years. People, both laity and clergy are elected by their conference to attend and represent and help to lead our state in the matters of the Church – to review our disciplines, our doctrines, our laws.
I was able to spend a few days as an observer of the Conference through Shenandoah University, and it was one experience that I will never forget.
General Conference is never an easy time for the Church. As people gather to prayerfully discuss and propose new legislation, there are demonstrations, protests, movements, meetings, singing and worship, holy conversations and Spirit-filled tears.
There were rumors and whispers of a proposal of a Church-split that began to circulate on social media, and my heart broke. Over the past forty years, there has been ongoing discussion about the full inclusion of those who identify as LGBTQIA, as well as the ending of systemic racism, full-equality for women, and a myriad of other important people, places and things.
When I first read a tweet that proposed a schism, I was stopped in my tracks. I had never really known Church, or God or had any idea about theology and doctrines as a young child, and when I moved Stateside, I was introduced to the United Methodist Church.
To say that my life has been influenced, impacted and made better because of the UMC is an understatement. The UMC helped to nurture me. I am a proud product of United Methodist schools; I attended Ferrum College and just a week ago, I graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary with my Masters of Divinity.
The United Methodist Church is a place of home for me. When I stepped in to General Conference, I was able to connect with friends that span a 10-year period, and the globe. We were able to sit and discuss our frustrations as young people, as people that care for God’s creation and for God’s people.
More importantly, there was one overwhelming thought that was produced: “I love the Church, we have been working and praying for years, and I do not want to it to separate”. My mind was filled with thoughts of my parents’ divorce and what it felt like to be back in that situation. No-one wins. There is a wreckage, damage and trauma that takes years of delicate love and prayers and band-aid ripping to undo, to unpack, to process.
I do not speak on behalf of all young people, or on behalf of the UMC. I simply speak as a young woman, with hopes of being ordained, who loves the church deeply and fiercely. We have differences of personal theology, we will not always agree with each other one-hundred percent of the time, but we are a people of God.
I, Emma, do not want to have that feeling in my gut ever again. I do not ever want to think about what it would look like for the Church that I love and care deeply for to break apart. Equally important as our differences are the things that bind us together. The love of God, and the power of grace and hope and of a new tomorrow in which we can help to better create the Kindom of God in the here and now and for the future.
I pray, in the days, weeks, months and years to come that we continue to work towards this. Towards reconciliation of God’s creation. Towards wholeness and fullness as God’s children. I hope and pray for peace, that we remember that we are united, that we are working towards justice and joy.