Schism Is a Failure of Love and Leadership

Talk of schism in The United Methodist Church abounds, exposing an already distracted church. Contemplating split precisely when the world needs an embodied message of reconciliation is a transparent betrayal of the church’s nature and mission.

John Wesley in his sermon “On Schism” declares:

To separate ourselves from a body of living Christians, with whom we were before united, is a grievous breach of the law of love. It is the nature of love to unite us together; and the greater the love, the stricter the union. . . . It is only when our love grows cold, that we can think of separating from our brethren. And this is certainly the case with any who willingly separate from their Christian brethren. . . The pretences for separation may be innumerable, but want of love is always the real cause.[1]

As Christ’s followers, we are commanded to love one another with the same love with which Christ loves us. Love is precisely the criteria by which the world knows we are disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”(John 13:15).

However we may rationalize schism as faithfulness to truth and orthodoxy, or as the cost of bold prophetic witness, the world correctly sees it as the failure to love. A church that cannot struggle together with conflicts over sexuality, interpretation of Scripture, and orthodoxy has little to say to a violently divided world.

The failure to love is also a negation of the church’s leadership. History is replete with examples of the church’s failure to provide leadership in times of polarization and division.

A historian of American religion, C. C. Goen, provides a relevant case study. His book Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the Coming of the American Civil War chronicles denominational schisms as precursors to the violent breech in the nation.

Though he does not contend that the churches caused the split, Goen argues that the denominational divisions represented a tragic “failure of leadership.” The Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians opted for retreating into homogeneous ecclesial enclaves rather than engage in difficult conversations on slavery and human dignity. Attempts at persuasion gave way to legislative coercion. When legislation failed, division and violence became the attempted solutions.

Rather than leading the nation toward justice and reconciliation, the denominations simply mirrored society’s brokenness. By splitting into self-justifying enclaves of like-minded congregations, the denomination opted to mirror the brokenness in society.  The church, thereby, provided an ecclesial model and theological underpinning for a broken nation and subsequent civil war.

The United Methodist Church is once again positioned to provide leadership to a world dreadfully divided and retreating into dangerous ideological ghettos. Will we once again exhibit a failure of love and leadership?

I am finding a hopeful alternative in an unexpected place. I have the privilege of providing a pastoral presence with approximately forty people living with some form of dementia, their families, and staff who care for them. Those marginalized children of God embody reconciliation and oneness that transcends uniformity.

Every worship service is Pentecost at Bethany, the memory care facility. Although each participate is unique and the religious backgrounds include Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and “none,” we gather as one community. Many have lost verbal abilities and comprehension. Theological and creedal abstractions elude them. Behaviors are unpredictable. Disruptions are accepted in stride.

It is not uncommon to hear a resident sing “Amazing Grace” in her native Portuguese or another in Spanish or Italian. A Jewish man joins in praying the Lord’s Prayer. People who can’t remember their own name recite Psalm 23 in unison. Some who have forgotten who Jesus sing “Jesus Loves Me” with gusto.

Much of the language is babble and incoherent. Yet, there is an understanding that transcends cognition. I asked, “How is it that you seem to understand one another?” A woman whose persistent petition during intercessory prayers is for world peace, responded: “We love one another. We communicate with the heart.”

That is leadership! That is love! Loving one another and communicating with the heart! That is the way forward for a denomination that claims as its mission “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

 

 

 

[1] Albert C. Outler, editor, The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 3(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986), p. 64.

60 thoughts on “Schism Is a Failure of Love and Leadership

  1. Ken, Please share this w Bishop Ough and the Council of Bishops – as reflection prior to our fall meeting. A failure of Love – – that is exactly what is happening in our beloved UMC. Blessings and love to you and Linda

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      1. Ditto, Charlene!!! Ken, I just read your amazing blog, and my heart is soaring! Thank you for so well naming the bedrock issue that threatens to undermine the message Christ’s Church is to offer: God’s Love IS big enough to claim our whole human family!!! I trust both of you know how grateful I am for the ways each of you has formed my heart for ministry.
        Blessings,
        Joy

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fiercely faithful and beautiful word. Whatever else we are, may we always be one. Nothing bears witness to the power of God than this. Your image of your place of service as Pentecost is inspired. Bless you as you bless the church.

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  3. Bishop Carder,

    Thank you for this. I contrast the state of our denomination with the end of my marriage when my ex-wife realized her lesbian orientation. I am convinced, in part because of the decades of difficult and intimate work we had done on our relationship, that ending the marriage as we did, with mutual respect and compassion, and profound parental care for our sons, was the path of love. There was not room in our relationship for us both to grow and still be able to fulfill God’s call to love one another as husband and wife. In contrast, The United Methodist Church is tempted with schism while the room for all to share in the creation of disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is self-evident.

    Rev. Carter Cortelyou
    elder, Detroit Annual Conference

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  4. Thank you very much for this very poignant posting which really resonates with me today! The notion of a split within The UMC does seem like a major failure of leadership!

    This morning’s meditation by Richard Rohr included a helpful perspective! In the 13th century, the Franciscans held many theological views which the dominant leadership of the church opposed. Nevertheless, the Franciscans remained as a significant and influential faction in the church, continued to dialogue with those of differing perspectives, and as a result enriched the traditions and teachings of the Church.

    In my opinion, there is plenty of room for diversity of thought and practice in the church and denominational leadership needs to cultivate the value of diverse perspectives within the Body, instead of treading down the perilous path of “unity equates to uniformity”!

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    1. Thank you for this very helpful response. I appreciate the comments by Richard Rohr. Certainly, to love as Christ loves, which is our calling as church, does not mean uniformity of thought or practice!

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  5. You, like so many others, criticize, but do not provide an answer beyond loving more. Are you saying that during the Civil War, they should have been able to love more while retaining slavery? Today, shall the church continue to discriminate against people over gender issues, but just love more? How does that work? Who needs to love more? How do we love more?
    I agree with your statements, but provide an answer. The Confessing Movement insists that they are perfectly loving, but the problem is with those sinful homosexuals and the people who do not want to discriminate against them. The UMC has been stuck in the same place for many years. Apparently, we all think we are loving, but maybe the most loving thing would be to split up.

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    1. Thank you for your comments. I realize the matter is very complex and merits additional reflection, including potential solutions. I welcome the conversation and hope we together can find alternatives to splitting. The immediate challenge is to define more precisely what love means when we are commanded to love as Christ loves us. I do not understand agape to be an emotion but a commitment to seek the wholeness and well being of the other regardless of differences. Further, at the hear of agape is justice and reconciliation. My plea is that as a denomination let us struggle together for a way forward that does bears witness to the oneness of the human family already made possible in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. How do we live into that already won victory? Again, thank you for your thoughtful and challenging response.

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      1. Christ also said, “Judge not lest years be judged and even more harshly.” Then Paul said do Not allow immoral people into you’re Church, but judge those outside the Church? Please explain the contrasting views.

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    2. Mr Carder seems to take the default position of thinking the problems are a result of lack of love. However, if a pastor takes position A and a parishioner takes position B. After a season of prayer and discussion with the pastor, the parishioner may leave that congregation while continuing to have love and respect for the pastor. Or the parishioner can stay in the congregation and feel frustration and dissatisfaction. The second option is surely not the solution.

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      1. My grandfather was a straight ticket Republican; my father is a Democrat. Yet we managed to sit around the same table on a regular basis by allowing each to have their perspective (vote, news media etc.) while focusing at the table on that which drew them together (family, love, etc). Too many families, including the church family, split instead of focusing on providing room for differences and focus on that which unites. Ephesians 4 tells us that we are called to unity and that we build up that unity through love. Perhaps we can split lovingly in a social way of understanding love. But in a Biblical sense, love leads to unity as well as truth. We need one another.

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      2. So, are you suggesting that God does not use ongoing discomfort to cause a person to grow spiritually, and that by avoiding that discomfort and failing to grow spiritually, the person is actually following the will of God for them? What of 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends”? I note, especially, that love “does not insist on its own way,” and that it “endures all things,” even, apparently, a pastor who does not agree with one’s own position on a particular subject – or, if you will, a gay person who believes that’s the way God created them, while the Church tries to tell them differently, but the gay person stays devoted to the Church anyway, and simply seeks to honor God in loving others as Christ loves her, and loving her partner with the same devotion as Christ loves the Church.

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  6. Bishop Carder, You continue to teach me. Thank you. I’ll be sharing this with my district.
    Heather Hensarling
    Brookhaven DS, Mississippi Conference

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    1. You have made a common error in confusing me with my friend, Bishop Ken CarTer in Florida. Please note the difference in spelling of the last name. Mine is spelled with a D-Carder while his is with t-Carter. I appreciate you kind words about the blog.

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  7. What will be intetesting to observe when or if schism comes is the degree to which the two (or more) bodies find ways to share a common witness. This will say more to the world about the manifestation of Christ’s love in the flesh of Christ’s body. Even now, what is more beautiful, more holy, more truth-speaking than what goes on in those places where Methodists and Episcopalians and Presbyterians and assorted strips of disciples find ways to pray and love together? Structural unity: That’s cool. Unity in love: That’s priceless That’s a cross lifted high.

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  8. Bishop, your proposed solution to our problem strikes me as a parallel to the Rodney King solution to the problem of race–Why can’t we all just get along? I think we need more particulars than you’ve provided here. This comes across to me as a bit more of a sermon than it does a real formula for getting past our impasse.

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    1. Thank you, Lonnie, for your response. You seem to miss the radical nature of what it means to love as Christ loves us. It is far more than “getting along.” I fully agree that the blog does not offer sufficient particulars; however, I hope you will not dismiss the implications by labeling my comments as “a bit more of a sermon “than . . . a real formula for getting past our impasse.” Regrettably, we are reaping the harvest of our idolatrous reliance on legislation and juridical processes as more authoritative than our theology and liturgy. A first step toward “getting past our impasse” is authentic repentance for our reliance on legislation, juridical processes, and political maneuvering rather than the power of grace at work in community. A second step forward is for all sides to commit to stay together as a witness to a broken and fractured world and find ways of struggling together with identified issues such as authority of Scripture and human sexuality. By struggling together we will more effectively bear witness to the reconciliation wrought in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us join together in living now in light of the victory already won in Jesus Christ.

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  9. What a beautiful and powerful witness to love. Thank you, Bishop Carder. May we all communicate with the heart as we move together through the storm. May we avoid the seduction of “homogenous ecclesiastical enclaves.”

    Bruce Case
    Pastor, Parkway Hills UMC

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  10. Dear Bishop Carder,
    Thank you very much for your courageous and loving expression of hope for our church. Your challenge to us is urgent, clear and compelling. I join you (and Jesus) in praying that we may all be one.
    Dan Church

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  11. In John Wesley’s “Cautions and Directions” the case is made that the last two cautions concerning “desiring anything but God” and schism are actually the sins of heart and life against the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ. The purpose of sanctifying grace is our going on to perfection in love! (Matthew 5:48)

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  12. Interesting thoughts. 3 points though:
    1. The issue is not about interpretation of Scriptures. The issue is authority of scriptures for life, order and faith. If we are free to pick and choose which scriptures we like, does that not lead to more division and ecclesial anarchy?

    2. Why does it mean that in order to show love you must accept the other person’s viewpoint? Failure to accept the progressive viewpoint is called a lack of love? Then the bigot and racist viewpoint must be accepted in order to love as Jesus says we should do.

    3. Was Ezekiel wrong when he challenged Israel to choose which “god” they would serve?

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    1. You raise important questions that merit discussion together as a denomination. Defining “authority of Scripture” is one of the pressing issues as well as the principles by which we interpret Scripture. A step forward is avoidance of labels, including “progressive” and “conservative.” The issues are multiple and complex but schism is not the solution and only further weakens the witness of the church.

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    2. “Picking and choosing” and “interpretation” are two distinct activities. “Picking and choosing” is an effort to control what Scripture can say to us. “Interpretation” is an effort to find out what Scripture is meant to say to us. There are multiple honest interpretations of various Scripture passages. Until we stop assuming that anyone who disagrees with our favored interpretation is rebelling against God, hasn’t read the Bible, loves sin, et cetera, we will not progress in any way. We will only do harm.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. A Methodist minister from my youth used to quote Edwin Markham:
    “He drew a circle that shut me out —
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But Love and I had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle that took him in.”
    Your words reminded of the poem and my old minister.
    I am in my 80s and support Reconciling Ministries and my LGBT friends, but I would not draw brother and sister United Methodists who disagree with me outside the circle of God’s love.

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  14. This commentary lacks reason and logic. It gives the same old moral equivocation argument between two sides. How can this be? One side practices and encourages the breaking of the Covenant and the Discipline and the decisions of the general conference. The other side encourages honoring the Covenant, the Discipline and the decisions of the general conference. The ” struggle” to listen to one another has gone on for 40 years. Now that has come to an end by those who break the Covenant and the system that has governed The United Methodist Church since its Inception. To call this a failure of love is well, inadequate at best.

    What always mystifies me is this attempt to say two sides are both equally wrong? Why is that? Why can we not have a simple evaluation of things as they are based on the facts? Why do we always have to pretend that one side is as wrong as another? Why must we never come to a conclusion about what must be done based on the clear facts? Why must we always spend decades “struggling” and “wrestling” with issues that are not very tricky to decide. It is as if we always want to call everything complex when it really is pretty simple just so we don’t have to render the final decision.

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    1. I appreciate your perspective and share much of the frustration reflected in your comments. I certainly don’t have sufficient answers but please do not dismiss my comments as lacking reason and logic. To love as Christ loves us demands tough mindedness and boundless compassion. I encourage you to read Goen’s book, Broken Churches, Broken Nation, especially the chapter “A Failure of Leadership,”

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  15. Through heroic acts of love and self sscrifice on behalf of the least respected minority among United Methodists we have come to the point of having to decide how we might live together as a church with radically different views about homosrxuslity. Were it not for these disruotive acts of disiobedience i am reasonably sure that the issue would continue to be kicked down the
    rosd indefinitely. That may be considered an act
    of love by those seeking to avoid the risks
    involved to the institution, but it definiely would
    not be seen that way to those most adversely
    affected by thr present anti-gay policies of the
    UMC. If your remsrks are intended as a
    postponement. Bishop, i would have to disagree
    with thst intention. We must decide now to be a
    church that honors BOTH sides as having
    contientioslly held cionvictions that can be
    practiced in different congregations or annual
    conferences without penaty, or we must decide
    how we can separate peacefully with the least
    amount of collateral damage to one another. This is the loving thing to do. There cannot be a return
    to the clloset while others decide what is to be
    done about gsy Methodists. Future talks must be
    with those mist affected by the decisions made
    . In this respect the Bishops Commission must
    include LGBTQI repesentatives as a mattrr of
    equity.
    It does seem to me that at least a temporary separation or mortorium will be required so that there is a cooling off period if any talks are to
    continue. What is abundantly clear is that
    attempting to stall for more time to talk this over
    will lead to shipwreck.. We have run out the clock on that. 45 years is the longest overtime imaginable! So we couldnt work it out in 45 years. Big deal! After 45 years of seoaration i suspect our grandchildren will be able to reunite withiut much difficulty.

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    1. Thank you for your very thoughtful and sensitive response. Please be assured that my comments are not intended to postpone needed action. I fully agree that we must honor both sides and work toward a resolution that reflects the reconciliation already wrought in Jesus Christ. Neither am I calling for a superficial “let’s just get along” approach that turns blind eyes to injustice. Regrettably, we are reaping the consequence of an idolatrous reliance on legislation and juridical processes to resolve issues that are to be dealt with through persuasion within community. A first step in a way forward is genuine repentance for our reliance on legislation and juridical processes. We also need to spend time discerning what it means to love as Christ loves us. That is the radical action needed. While I am deeply concerned, I do not despair. The decisive victory has already been won in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Our challenge is to live now in the light of that victory and to embody it in our life together. Again, thank you for your thoughtful response. May God grant us the wisdom and courage to embody reconciliation already won in Christ.

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  16. “A failure of love” is an argument that implies one side is not loving the other or that by loving one another better we could resolve the impasse. I’ve not questioned nor made a judgment about whether someone is loving. How can I know the heart? Wesley could conceive of a follower of Christ reading the plain text of Scripture and denying it, but I don’t imagine he could have conceived of it as it regards the plain teaching of Scripture on sexuality.

    I do believe it is a failure of love in the sense that our first love according to the Scripture is the Lord. I’m not unloving when I abide by the Scripture that has been the basis for nearly 2,000 years of Christian theology in the area of sexuality. To love the Lord means taking a stand when there is a falling away from sound doctrine and biblical theology. The New Testament is replete with warnings and evidence of false teachers who lead others astray. Wesley also warned of this.

    The failure is a failure of moral integrity to abide by our ordination vows and to enforce the common covenant we have agreed to. The failure is a failure to repent of sin or even acknowledge sinning against the Lord and all of us have sinned and fallen short. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and the position of the UMC, based on Scripture, reason, tradition and experience, is celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage. Biblical marriage is one man and one woman. The failure is not about loving one another while in disagreement, but about loving God by obedience to His Word.

    Grace and Peace to you

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  17. With all due respect Bishop, the state of the church is solely from an abject lack of episcopal leadership. All clergy vow to uphold the Discipline. Many, if not most, bishops have not honored this vow.
    The UMC stance on human sexuality has been upheld at the general conferences which we hold to be “holy conferencing” repeatedly. If it is really holy conferencing then why are we do some continue to reject the church’s position?
    Real love calls people out of an unhealthy and destructive homosexual lifestyle.
    This is not a failure of love so please do not project the narrative that I do not love on me. The church is in the state it is in purely because of a lack of episcopal leadership and failure to honor the vow to uphold the Discipline of the church.

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    1. Please do not easily dismiss the call to love as Christ loves as limited to a failure of leadership by one particular group. We ALL have failed and continue to do so. We are reaping the harvest of our idolatrous reliance on legislation and juridical processes to resolve our differences rather than the power of radical grace lived in community. Repentance of our continuing idolatry is an initial step.

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  18. My dear pastor, friend, mentor and former Bishop, oh, how the church misses your active daily leadership and witness!! You speak so eloquently the words my heart wants to shout. One of the great reasons I’ve enjoyed being a “United Methodist” is because we have been “United” and because of what people once said of us: “See how they love one another.” To see that core quality in jeopardy is very unnerving. Thank you for speaking directly to us … and calling us back to the way of our Lord. Your illustration is so poignant in that so much of our facades hide a profoundly deep longing for community, unity and gracious love. So, which is the greatest of these: truth, orthodoxy or prophetic stances??? Was St. Paul wrong when he declared, “but the greatest of these is love.” Thank you for loving God, for serving Jesus and standing firm for the unity of God’s people. You have always been willing to speak the truth in love, and I miss your voice and rejoice in hearing from you today!

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  19. You have written the plain and simple truth. I have been reacquainted with several of Wesley’s sermons lately and been amazed to rediscover the breadth and depth of his catholic spirit. Odd how we can so easily bypass the prayer that Jesus prayed for the unity of the Church and focus our attention not on the love that binds us together, but on the issues on which we differ. May God forgive us all our impiety and partisan spirits. Thank you.

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  20. Bishop Carder,
    On one account I will applaud you, the reference to Wesley’s sermon: On Schism. I would ask all that have read your blog to read the sermon. On these accounts I challenge you. First, you missed the initial point Wesley was making about defining what “schism” is. Second, you missed the clear evidence, later in the sermon where Wesley indicates (my paraphrase) the bogus and righteous reasons to separate, to come out of a church. You have taken Wesley completely out of context.

    Walter Carter

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    1. Thank you for responding and I appreciate your concern that I have taken Wesley out of context. I take your concern seriously. I have read the sermon several times as well as his sermons on “Catholic Spirit,” “Caution against Bigotry” and most all his written sermons in the four volumes of sermons published in The Works of John Wesley, edited by Albert Outler. While I do not consider myself a Wesley scholar, I have been a serious student of Wesley for more than thirty years. At the heart of Wesley’s theology and practice is the theme of holiness of heart and life or “the entire love of God shed abroad in our hearts.” The quote I lifted from the sermon is, I believe, congruent with the overall theology of Wesley as expressed in his sermons and other writings. But my overarching point is not derived from Wesley but from Jesus’ prayer that we are to be one and his command that we are to love one another as Christ loves us. What does it mean to love one another as Christ loves us? How can we best express in our life together the oneness, the reconciliation, already wrought in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? I would like to see our denomination ponder more deeply the implications of both Wesley’s “catholic spirit” and Jesus’ prayer and command.

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  21. As I realized this seems to be the nature of things, regardless of our Book of Discipline, an amazing transformation happens to everyone I know working in past life regression therapy. We loose fear, and we gain an expanded capacity to see with a loving heart.

    Here’s what past life regression practitioners all seem to experience:

    Consciousness apparently doesn’t end at death. We judge ourselves in the afterlife, we are not judged by others. We are granted access to whatever truth and research we seek. Nearly everything is available to each soul for the purpose of personal growth. In the after life we gain clear insights we did not have in life. We see how what we say and do impacts others through their eyes. We are allowed to feel their joy and their anguish. We see how all things are connected in the One. We each do our own life review, frame by frame if we choose. We are not judged. We judge ourselves. What we get wrong we do again through reincarnation until higher authority moves us onward in partnership with ourself. This is the nature of things apparently. It is what I watch and hear with my own eyes and ears in a spiritually motivated search for truth picked up in my avocation of past life regression hypnosis.

    When we are ready in the between life state, we then pick the area of ourselves we want to improve in the next incarnation. We go before a council of loving elder souls for new assignment and present our plan. When they approve, we reincarnate…sometimes here, sometimes on other worlds, but usually with the same family members. We live as both sexes. We reverse roles. All this is the nature of soul growth. We are helped in these tasks by our volunteer angels, guides, and council members and feel their love and presence. This happens to believers and to non believers. It happens to people of all faiths.

    My 12-year study in the search for truth, creates a whole new perspective to forgive both sides in this nonviolent schism my church has been brought to. And above all else a church is our feeble attempt to act in accordance with divine sense of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Peace depends on forgiveness and asking for help from a higher authority. http://tinyurl.com/zurj57p

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  22. Thank you Bishop Carder and all the beloved United Methodists who responded and shared diverse and inspiring views. It is encouraging that there are United Methodists who are reflecting on these challenges with all their hearts, minds and soul. I am hopeful that God will lead us well to find a solution which will keep us united as much as we acknowledge our differences .
    Bishop Nhiwatiwa

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  23. I resent the continuing failure by writers such as Bishop Carder to to consider the objection of traditional Christians to homosexual clergy. I feel no hatred of those who have chosen or been burdened with this sexual identification. However, I have no interest in having anyone denying the truth of the Bible as a leader in the church. How can we look to those in denial of God’s teachings as our moral leaders?

    I am very suspicious of policies and pronouncements coming from the top of the Methodist church which seem to mirror, sometimes almost simultaneously, those coming from the Democratic party. Are we now an arm of that organization of humanists and socialists?

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    1. I need to interject a few comments here. We who identify as non-straight have not “chosen”, nor are we “burdened with this sexual identification.” God made us this way, and we struggle against persons such as yourself and others within the Church who refuse to accept that a sovereign God can create as God will create, and our job as sexual beings, whether we identify as straight or LGBTQ, is to figure out how to live out our lives in a way that both honors God and honors the image of God in which we and others were created, with our sexual identification being one of the factors in our living. Just as left-handed people once were thought to be “of the devil,” thus, the word “sinister,” which comes from the Latin root for “left”, having the meaning of “bad, evil, base, wicked,” being applied to all left-handed people, so, also, the term “sodomite” has been applied, especially, to gay men, when, in fact, those who were threatening Lot’s guests in Sodom were “all the men of Sodom,” who, clearly, were heterosexual, because the two men of Sodom who were to marry Lot’s daughters were representative of the men of the whole town. So, the limitation of the term “sodomite” to gay men who have anal intercourse is a misapplication of the term; because the issue in Sodom was the abuse of strangers, whom the law of Moses later said were to be treated with the respect and hospitality with which one would treat a fellow Israelite, and not with abuse. So, the thing which we have “chosen” is to be open about the way God has created us to relate to other persons sexually; and the primary thing with which we are “burdened” is the abuse we receive from persons such as yourself, who claim “not to hate” us, but who simply refuse to accept us as “persons of sacred worth,” having a sexuality that is “a good gift of God” (as our Book of Discipline claims), and as person who, like you, are seeking to live the life God has designed for us in truth and righteousness. So, the answer to the question of “who are the real ‘sodomites’ in this situation” presents itself: those who are relating to others in the way God created them to relate, or those who abuse them? Just because people such as yourself don’t agree that we can relate to others intimately in a way that is acceptable to you and others like you – and you claim to know the mind of God better than we, even though your “interpretation of scripture” is based on your heterosexual preference, which biases you to see it as the only sexuality that is acceptable to God due to your and other heterosexuals’ biased way of reading the scriptures, and you do not allow that we, being as devoted to knowing and acting out God’s will for us, might have a different reading on account of our sexuality that is no less acceptable to God, even if it is not acceptable to you and others – it doesn’t mean that we are wrong and you are right. It means that you do not allow for the fact that, as the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13, our knowledge – that is, mine as well as yours – is only partial, and our ability to prophesy (that is, to speak the word of God to others) is only partial, but that love is the paramount action that we are to take toward one another; and I and others such as I simply don’t accept your kind of condemnatory attitude, language, and political action in and through the church to be that of “loving” persons. We are also told by Paul in Philippians 2.5-11 to have “the mind of Christ” in us, not considering anything about us to place us over others, but to take on the role of a servant to others, thereby “walking humbly with our God”, as Micah urges us to do. So, if by being and saying the things you are and do, you expect to “lead me and others like me to Christ,” I can tell you that you are failing in realizing your intent; and not only you, but literally millions of United Methodists and other Christians who establish their own heterosexuality as the litmus test for all sexual beings, refusing to allow God to be sovereign, and claiming to know God’s mind better than anyone who is not like them.

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      1. AMEN from one who has too many LGBTQ friends to count who have shown themselves to be committed and more loving than many of my heterosexual friends. I am so very tired of scripture being used as a weapon rather than a message of love. When Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself, he meant it. None of us would condemn ourselves or treat ourselves as we are treating the LGBTQ community. How then can we call ourselves followers of Jesus when we are so unloving and judgmental?

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