The Church I Long For Is …

It was a profound and holy moment. At the end of our orders gathering last Tuesday, we were asked to fill in the blank, “The church I long for is …” Prayerfully and humbly, 170 clergy voices around the sanctuary shared their hopes and dreams for our beloved United Methodist Church.

The church I long for is …
    Grace-filled
        Courageous
            Strong
                Hopeful
                    Infused with the Holy Spirit

We spent the day using a process developed by Bishop Ken Carter and the Florida Annual Conference called Point of View (POV). It’s a way of engaging in holy conversation around human sexuality by developing empathy, understanding, and compassion for one another. Our leader was Rev. Magrey deVega, who is the senior pastor of Hyde Park UMC in Tampa, Florida. Rev. deVega was a perfect facilitator for us because for eight years, from 2007-2015, he was the pastor of St. Paul’s UMC in Cherokee, Iowa.

POV gatherings attempt to create an alternative to the divisive spirit both in our culture and in the church by operating under the presupposition that we need each other to accomplish the mission of The United Methodist Church. Three drivers of Point of View are:

  • Empathy: seeing and listening from the perspective of another person.
  • Context: having a broader understanding of what factors shape our own views and the views of others.
  • Generative dialogue that encourages people of varied convictions to flourish together.

How we might develop a common missional approach for all people to grow as disciples of Jesus regardless of their differences?

The church I long for is …
    Humble
        Open
            Leading by example
                Curious
                    Centered around the table of the Lord

One of the most helpful parts of the day was our dialogue around empathy. Empathy can be defined as “the act of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another.” The Point of View process emphasizes the importance of feeling connection with others, seeing the other’s perspective, and offering no judgment. Empathy does not try to make things better but rather seeks understanding. Click here for a brief video by Brené Brown on empathy.

When we take the time to discern the various positions on human sexuality and put ourselves in the place of the people who hold those views, we develop a heart of peace, not a heart of war. But more than that, we have an opportunity to show the world how different perspectives can be part of the same church.

The church I long for is …
    Steeped in the teaching and example of Jesus
        Reaching out
            Always climbing into the hole with others
                Transforming lives
                     Giving itself away

In order to create the church we long for, we will all have to become better listeners. One of the values of the Commission on a Way Forward gatherings that are taking place around our United Methodist connection is hearing the voices of others around human sexuality. At our POV clergy gathering last week, we learned how to be better listeners by focusing on the person who is talking and not simply rehearsing our own response. When we insist on sharing our own worldview first, without seeking to understand the hurts, hopes, and frustrations of the person(s) with whom we are engaging, we limit our effectiveness in connecting others with Jesus.

The church I long for is …
    Witnessing
        Risk-taking
            Visionary
                Joyful
                    Always going to the margins

The most challenging questions were near the end of our day together, when we were asked to discern:

  • What areas do I need to confess where I have missed the mark?
    I thought of the Historic Questions (BOD, ¶330.5.d) asked of clergy seeking admission into full connection in The United Methodist Church, knowing that I need to continually challenge my own faith and practice.

    • Have you faith in Christ?
    • Are you going on to perfection?
    • Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?
    • Are you earnestly striving after perfection in love?
    • Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and God’s work?

  • If I were to act out of my bravest self, what would I do next?
    • Keep listening to God and others
    • Keep making disciples
    • Keep modeling the grace and love of Jesus
    • Keep encouraging difference making
    • Keep surrendering and giving myself away
    • Keep building bridges and seeking understanding

What is the church you long for?

3 thoughts on “The Church I Long For Is …

  1. It was an excellent day. Thank you for all you do in witness. I pray for a church that could lessen its judgments voice and strengthen its invitational and kind voice.

  2. Most of all, the Church I long for would speak clearly and distinctly the words of wisdom spoken by the man, Jesus. And would search deeply for the meaning and context of Jesus’ life so we can put ourselves into the ancient times he lived in. And reclaim our Jewish heritage that speaks to he meaning of today’s rituals and celebrations.

  3. One of the best workshop gatherings I’ve attended. The church I long for will refrain from contentious / acrimonious debate and opposition to people whose core sexual orientation does not strike against the core faith tenets that trust and advocate for following the ways of Jesus the Christ.

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