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A story that is mostly off the mainstream radar -- The United Methodist Church, America's largest mainline denomination, is holding a special session of their General Conference next month to finally resolve its conflicts over issues of sexual identity & Christian practice.
They have three plans in front of them to decide the direction of the church for the future: religionnews.com/2018/07/18/met…
In the last year, I've had a remarkable number of speaking and peaching engagements in Methodist conferences and congregations.

There's been a lot of anxiety at those events.
And I know it has been really, really hard on my Methodist friends. For them, the political divide and a denominational divide have combined to create enormous stress (especially on clergy and other leaders).
I want to encourage them this evening. I born, baptized, and raising Methodist. It is a great tradition -- one that has gifted the world with a unique vision of spiritual experience and social justice.
Even though I've been an Episcopalian for some 30+ years now, I often reflect on how I'm still really Methodist. Or, perhaps, some lovely hybrid of the two. After all, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism was an Anglican priest.
Wesley was concerned that Anglicanism had grown spiritually cold, and that it wasn't attentive enough to the social changes in England that were creating massive poverty.
Out of his passion for a heart warmed by grace and hands open toward the poor and outcast, Methodism emerged (first) as a renewal movement w/i Anglicanism -- it held great appeal to women and to the poor, in the colonies to those held in slavery.
Traditional Anglicans didn't really like Methodism very much -- they worried about lay women taking to preaching and enslaved persons experiencing the spiritual power of liberation.
But people who didn't have much power in conventional church embraced Methodism's revolutionary power of heart and hands. For the first generation or two, Wesley's movement upended traditional Protestantism across the English-speaking world.
But you know. Eventually even the rowdiest of spiritual movements fall to the temptations of institution.
So, when I was a little girl, I was never much taken by the Victorian piety or middle-class religious views that taken over the church.

But whenever I heard those stories about women preaching and slaves reading the Bible and Wesley breaking Anglican rules, I loved it.
I couldn't figure how a church that began with radical rule-breaking, hearts-strangely-warmed, read-the-Bible-for themselves mystics and social reformers turned into 1960s Methodism. (I do know that now -- after all I do have a PhD in this stuff.)
It has always seemed to me that Methodist tradition is willing to break with tradition for the sake of love and justice.
At least that's what I learned as a child. Even though they tried to teach me that Methodism was about being nice, moral, and middle class.

The real story kept sneaking through. And that real story helped to make me who I am, how I understand God, grace, and goodness.
And so this is a word of encouragement from me -- a child of your church, but who walked a slightly different way: Methodists -- you are a great expression of Christian faith, of Protestant tradition. Without you, the world wouldn't be the same.
You've given more than you know, witnessed more profoundly than you could have guessed, inspired little girls (like me) to pursue a life of faith with passion and power.
Let go of all that anxiety.

Whatever happens, it is the next chapter of your story.
And I would dearly love if you recaptured some of the rowdy, radical, and revolutionary nature of your earliest years.

That is needed right now. We don't need more Christians interested in preserving institutions. But we could use a lot more interested in saving the planet.
So, your wayward Episcopal daughter is praying, watching, waiting, and cheering you on. Love and love and love some more. May your hearts be strangely warmed. May your hands be open to your neighbors.
And thank you. I am deeply grateful that you gave me the gift of baptism, introduced me to the Bible, gave me hymns to sing, prompted all my first theological questions, and put the word "justice" in my vocabulary.

Thank you for being you.
(As always, please forgive typos or grammar mistakes in my extemporaneous threads. The spirit moves the heart, but not always the keystrokes.)
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