My beloved United Methodist Church (UMC) is in the headlines again. At the same time that one clergy colleague loses his authorization to be a pastor (is defrocked!) another is celebrated for courage — both of these consequences for presiding at a ceremony celebrating the union of a gay couple.
Some have challenged my support for gay marriage by saying I should not be a UMC pastor if I am not willing to follow all the rules. I say, our UMC has the same traditions around civil disobedience as does the United States. An unethical law should not be obeyed. And we are entitled to work for change from within the system. So, rather than leave the system, I join with many of my UM colleagues in being prepared to put pastoral care for my parishioners ahead of ‘laws’ that attempt to limit the range of care that I am ‘permitted’ to offer.
However, the tradition of civil disobedience says that if we choose to break the law even for the best of reasons, we must be willing to suffer the consequences of breaking the law. Living with the consequences is part of the witness. Unfortunately, breaking this church law in Pennsylvania can result in the loss of one’s calling. Breaking the same law in Washington can result in a one day suspension with pay.
Because I believe in John Wesley’s ‘system’ of grace: prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying, I continue to work for justice in flawed systems — church, community, state, nation. And I believe that it is incumbent on those of us for whom the consequences are likely to be less costly to lead the way in doing the right thing for all of our parishioners.
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- VIEWPOINTS: What does healing look like to you? - February 14, 2018
- Viewpoints: Religious leaders and politics - November 20, 2017
- Trump will not be leader of “the free world” - November 12, 2016
- The Consequences of Tolerating Incivility - October 9, 2016
- Overzealous evangelists? - August 12, 2016
- The church should stand on political issues - August 1, 2016
- Must a feminist vote for Hillary Clinton? - March 14, 2016
- Consent Means Yes - February 18, 2016
- Less Driven and More Drawn - January 12, 2016