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CLUB 444: Why Stay? part 4 and conclusion

Scott A. Duell, a friend IRL as well as online, has graciously given me his expressed permission to share this with you here. I’ll be doing that in four parts —

SCRIPTURE.  Okay – this can be an enormous blog post all on its own – so let’s keep this one simple and straightforward. If you want a more detailed look at what the UMC believes about the Bible – and will continue to believe “post-separation”, check out this link, https://www.umc.org/en/content/theological-guidelines-scripture


The Bible was written, compiled, translated, and passed down through generations by men – but it was divinely inspired by God. It is a holy and sacred text – the source of our doctrines – the authority for our lives – and the roadmap to reconciliation with God through the sacrifice of Jesus and the sustaining of the Holy Spirit. It is a love story, a measuring rod, and a guidebook. But it is not meant to be read literally. It is intended to be interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit, and understood through the lenses of tradition, experience, and reason. 

Once again, the GMC wants to allude to a future where the UMC discounts or discards the Bible. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

CONCLUSION.  I hate that we have been forced to take sides. I hate that there has to be an “us” and a “them”. I hate that there is discord between brothers and sisters in Christ. But this is where we are. 


Yes, there are things about the United Methodist Church that I would like to see changed. And I will continue to fight for those changes. Change and growth are good things. That’s why the General Conference meets every four years, to discuss revisions to The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions. And I’m sorry to be the one to have to say this out loud, but as society changes – our social principles should evolve to reflect and address those changes. These books are not divinely inspired scripture – they’re books that can and should be updated and edited. 


But I cannot in good conscience, cast a vote to disaffiliate in order to join a denomination that was established primarily to stop the discussion about human sexuality and deny the full inclusion of my LGBTQ+ friends and family into the church. I can’t and I won’t. At the very least, the UMC is still open to the discussion. 


Nor can I be a part of a denomination that has deemed it necessary to recruit clergy, members, and even whole churches through what I see as a pattern of deceit, fearmongering, and unfair maligning of my church. That is certainly not how Jesus taught us to treat each other. 


This has not been an easy decision. There has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth. But If my home church votes to disaffiliate, I will mourn – I will grieve – I will wish them the best and will continue to pray for its members that I will always love – but I will find another UMC church that believes and is willing to live out the motto, “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”


Peace.

Wrong Again.

It started long before you and I came along.

It started long before our any of our present global, climate, political, economic and any number of other interesting/troublesome situations came along.

Presumably well-intentioned people have been predicting when Christ Jesus would return longer than any of us, or any of that.

Meanwhile, there is this statement —

No one knows about that day or hour,

not even the angels in heaven,

nor the Son,

but only the Father.

— “Whoa. Who said THAT, Joe?!”

If you check Matthew 24:26, and Mark 13:32 while you’re at it, you’ll see the source is none other than The Source.

The others, with their charts and graphs and warnings and promises?

Wrong again.

Let’s remind one another of this from time to time.

Like an old song says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus….”

CLUB 444: Why Stay? part 3

Scott A. Duell, a friend IRL as well as online, has graciously given me his expressed permission to share this with you here. I’ll be doing that in four parts —

EXPERIENCE.  “I once was blind, but now I see.” I was once asked why I believed in God or what proof I could present for my faith. I replied that I couldn’t provide any written or scientific proof – all I can really tell you is how I have experienced the transformational, sustaining, loving hand of God in my own life. 

I was essentially raised in the church and have been a Christian most of my life, but my moment (conversion, being saved, accepting Jesus into my heart… whatever you want to call it) came in 1983 at Beulah Youth Institute church camp after what can only in retrospect be considered a terrible hellfire and brimstone sermon. I actually went up to the altar twice – two nights in a row – because I was afraid the first one didn’t take since my life wasn’t magically or radically different as a result of my first trip. My pastor, in his gentle, caring way explained – much like the old lady in the Geico commercial – “that’s not how it works – that’s not how any of this works!”


Thank God my experience didn’t end there. My faith is not the same as it was when I was 12. It has grown and matured and evolved over time. It’s taken many left turns and traveled long, winding paths through the dark woods as well as the bright sunshine. I have had amazing spiritual mentors along the way and powerful examples of true, living faith – and it’s all led me here. If you want to label me progressive or liberal – that’s fine – I can live with that. But I’m also happy to work side-by-side with my more conservative brothers and sisters as long as we are living out the words and directives of Jesus Christ. Because of my experience, I believe that God’s love in action can change the world. 

Addition or Subtraction?

Leonard Sweet, very recently —

A Yale undergraduate sent poet/classicist A. E. Housman a letter asking how he always managed to choose the right word.

Housman responded: “I do not choose the right word. I get rid of the wrong one.”

Sometimes subtraction is as important as addition or multiplication.

— And so here am I, who for several reasons have included this in my e-signature for quite some time…

+ > ÷

…wondering, is this Houseman quote at call to correction or a reminder of balance?

Looking foward as always to hearing from you, and thanks in advance!

CLUB 444: Why Stay? part 2

Scott A. Duell, a friend IRL as well as online, has graciously given me his expressed permission to share this with you here. I’ll be doing that in four parts —

REASON.  According to John Wesley, Reason is a fundamental principle that goes hand-in-hand with Christianity. By my own crude interpretation, that means that God gave us brains and the capacity for critical thought – so we should use them. 

I have read the materials provided by the Global Methodist Church and those written by my own pastor. I have watched the videos by Rob Renfroe and listened to sermons, discussions, and debates. But I am dumbfounded by how much misinformation is being disseminated and presented as “fact”. The GMC has even invented a term, “Post-Separation UMC,” to attempt to paint the church in an unflattering light; as if something fundamental is going to change just because some people are being led away from the UMC like rats being led out of Hamelin by the Pied Piper. As I said before, it’s not. 

To put it in the simplest terms I can come up with, they want to leave because they think that the UMC is becoming too liberal or progressive. That’s it. The only real evidence they have of that is ongoing discussions to allow and affirm same-sex marriages and the ordination of practicing LGBTQ+ persons. But as of yet, that hasn’t happened. Sure, GMC supporters will bring up a couple of extreme examples – always the same few – in order to frighten the more conservative members into thinking that it’s more widespread than it really is, or that it’s like an infectious disease rapidly spreading across the country. But again, it’s really not. Those are just scare tactics. 

To me, it seems like a natural extension of the state of our current politics. The divide between those considered liberal and those considered conservative is growing wider and wider for no apparent reason, eliminating any chance of compromise or collaboration, and precipitating the need to vilify and demonize the other side. That mentality has leached into our churches – and that’s not healthy or okay. 

One More on Damar and CPR

Bruce Baumberger is a trusted friend and colleague who served as a distinguished hospital chaplain. I hope we might have enough distance from that disastrous Monday Night Bengals Game as we call it in our home (yup, son LJ4 lives in Cincinnati) to even more fully appreciate what Bruce wrote shortly thereafter —

There’s something that has been nagging at me and I guess it’s time to get it off my chest. Damar Hamlin’s heart arrest on the playing field struck everyone who witnessed it deeply and I am thankful that he received IMMEDIATE attention that resulted in his recovery and recent release from the hospital. His recovery is a testimony of how receiving IMMEDIATE medical attention by individuals who knew what they were doing resulted in a positive outcome. However, I believe his recovery had several factors in play that made his recovery so outstanding: 1. He is young. 2. He is in excellent physical condition. 3. The event seemed to be a weird hit as just the right time in the heart’s rhythm. 4. Response time was IMMEDIATE.

CPR can produce very positive outcomes, particularly in the case just cited. However, it can also produce some tragic outcomes as well. Thus, I question the efficacy of CPR. As I understand it, CPR has one goal: restore a heart beat. After that, a person’s ability to regain a “normal” level of functionality is dependent on a variety of factors (some of which may have contributed to the heart stoppage in the first place). I guess what I’m saying is that CPR does not always produce the results witnessed in Mr. Hamlin’s case and we need to be careful to point out the factors that contributed to his recovery. IMMEDIATE CPR was only one of those factors.

Perhaps I am just a grumpy, old man venting. Yet, there have been far too many times when I have witnessed “successful” CPR only to minister to a family whose loved one remained on a vent and eventually had make serious decisions (usually 2 weeks later) about whether or not to change the treatment plan. From my perspective, CPR is not the panacea many in the general public believe it to be. I am glad Damar Hamlin survived, recovered, and appears to be on the road to a fully-functional life. I celebrate the effect it had on the NFL community. CPR and IMMEDIATE attention were a couple of factors that contributed to his successful recovery. How I wish it were the same for all the individuals I saw receiving CPR. (Only witnessed such a profound recovery a couple of times in my years of chaplaincy.)

Well thanks for listening. This probably was not the most uplifting thing I’ve ever posted so I hope I didn’t bore you or bring you down. It’s just been chewing on my mind and I had to get it out. Thanks, again. Ponder on it…and God bless.

CLUB 444: Why Stay?

Scott A. Duell, a friend IRL as well as online, has graciously given me his expressed permission to share this with you here. I’ll be doing that in four parts —

There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty right now around what’s happening in and around the United Methodist Church, and all the buzz about disaffiliation. I am not qualified to explain the details. And honestly, much smarter people than me have written exhaustively about that subject, so I won’t attempt to add to that. I am also not a bible scholar or church historian. But since the debate has reached the doors of my own home church,

I feel like I need to say something. And with the initial straw vote coming in less than three short weeks, now seems like the right time to say it.

Before I begin though, don’t be deceived; regardless of what anyone says, this whole debate begins and ends over the topic of human sexuality. Whatever your view on the subject, that’swhere it began and what continues to fuel it.

So, here it is: Why I Have Decided to Stay United Methodist:

TRADITION. I was raised United Methodist. I was confirmed, baptized, married, and chose to raise my daughter in the same small rural Southern Illinois UM church. I left briefly when I was a teenager to explore other, more exciting church options, but the shine quickly wore off. I came right back, and soon after became a lay speaker, an Annual Conference delegate, and a lay leader, and I currently serve as the chair of the Church Council.

None of this is a good reason to not want to leave – but it does illustrate my connection to the church I consider home tradition emphasizes prevenient grace, justification, and sanctification – as well as mission, service, and the primacy of scripture (which I’ll talk more about later). These principles are the basis of the theology and doctrine of the UMC, as well as my own personal worldview. So the question is, will that change just because a group of people or churches decide to leave the denomination? Of course not. Those roots are much deeper than that.

Let me state for the record, there are aspects of the United Methodist Church that I’m not entirely crazy about or don’t completely agree with. But I can undoubtedly say that I agree far more with it than I do any other major denomination. And one of the primary reasons is that it has always been considered a “big tent” church. What that means is that if we agree on the big stuff, regardless of those little things that we will inevitably disagree on, we can still worship, study, and serve together as one body – one family. Conservative, liberal, republican, democrat, evangelical, social justice centered… whatever. Our individuality, uniqueness, and diversity are exactly what make us stronger.

Just as I Am

And as an old song says —-

Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come
Mm

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fighting and fears within without
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come

—- so let’s get going, amen?

Why All the Fuss about Jeff Beck?

Why all the fuss about Jeff Beck? My short answer is because he was an astonishing musician.

My most personal answer deals with the first encore of his concert in St. Louis in May of 2015.

Long story short: BB King had died two days before. Jeff hit the first note of a BB King classic song as a memorial and I was suddenly a 7th grader sitting in my dad’s blue Chevy. We had just pulled into the parking lot of the Tri-City grocery store not far from our home. We sat and listened to that song all the way to the end.

Fast forward to that concert: I was sitting next to Patty. Jeff hit the first note of that same BB King classic song and I literally fell back into my seat. Suddenly and unexpectedly, that song was speaking to me and speaking for me. It was saying what I’d been trying to articulate for a long time. What I’d been avoiding. What I’d been afraid of acknowledging. Now there it was, in all its unavoidable and liberating truth.

Why all the fuss about Jeff Beck? My short answer is because he was an astonishing musician.

My most personal answer deals with his role in a pivotal epiphany.

And I’ll stop right there.

And be grateful.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow.

Always Love.

“Don’t leave love left undone.

“There may be things you don’t accomplish, attain, or achieve in this world. But don’t let shrinking back from love be one of them.

“If you’re fortunate, you discover that love is the only thing that really matters: love heals everything and love is all there is.

“On your way out of this world you’ll look back and see it was always about that… it was always love.”

— Jim Palmer

And from long ago to right now —-

For right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:

Trust steadily in God,

hope unswervingly,

love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.

— St. Paul, 1st Corinthians 13:13, the Message version