I believe I’ll vote “Yes” to the amendment so the wording will say that all people can be a part of our worship, programs, sacraments and membership. I respect the thoughts of those with another opinion, but I disagree with them. And, I do thank God that we can wrestle with these things in The United Methodist Church and still stay sisters and brothers in Christ, who together are dedicated to the transformation of lives and the world.
I believe our mission is to connect all people to the church and especially to Christ and let God do God’s thing to transform lives so they might become disciples of Jesus. I know one can see different ideas in the Bible, but I see a lot of inclusiveness. Jesus asked 12 people to be members of his disciple cohort while knowing that all of them were very confused about who he was or what his mission was about. He also knew, or figured out fairly quickly, that one of them would betray him and that all would deny him one way or another. But he wanted them “in” because he believed that their lives would eventually be forever changed. He also wanted the prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, children and everyone else to come near to him so they might experience the good news of God’s heavenly kingdom on earth. It was the religious folks who tried to keep some away from him, and that didn’t make our Lord very happy.
Jesus himself was excluded because he was judged to be constantly breaking the rules and not quite measuring up to the ways and even the doctrine of some in the established religion and state. When we, as a denomination, exclude certain people, are we not excluding Christ once again? What is gained in changing the wording, and even more importantly the practicing, to include all people is that we, as a church, continue to become more like Jesus. I think this is our reason for being. Also, it might be a little risky to include all people in our life together, but I think we are seeking to practice risk-taking mission and service as well as radical hospitality now that I think about it.
Finally, I remember a time and a fellow who was very confused and addicted to drugs. The local church never excluded him or removed him from worship, programming, or membership because of his behavior. They kept welcoming, including and challenging him until the day he accepted Christ as well as a call into full time ministry. I want to personally thank that local church for including me as one of the “all people” that the General Conference of the United Methodist is seeking to officially embrace.
Craig LaSuer serves as superintendent of the Marion District.