God Bats Last!

I am deeply grieved, frustrated, and embarrassed by the actions of the United Methodist General Conference.

We not only did harm to our LGBTQAI+ beloved sisters and brothers; we publicly bore false witness to the Christian gospel and severely undermined the church’s witness in this broken world.

Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy!

May our lament energize us for living our baptismal vows and “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sins.”

May our resistance be in the form of radical agape/love expressed in justice, compassion, and hospitality.

I’m holding onto the conviction that God has already won the decisive victory in Jesus Christ.

God always bats last! I pray that the church to which I’ve given my adult life will be on base in the final inning!

18 thoughts on “God Bats Last!

  1. Thanks Ken, you are not alone in your thoughts, many are right there with you…blessings always.

    On Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 11:14 AM Shifting Margins wrote:

    > kennethcarder posted: “I am deeply grieved, frustrated, and embarrassed by > the actions of the United Methodist General Conference. We not only did > harm to our LGBTQAI+ beloved sisters and brothers; we publicly bore false > witness to the Christian gospel and severely undermined ” >


  2. My heart is sad because The United Methodist Church has continued to be motivated by false definitions, when they call LGBTQAI “self-avowed.” They did not choose to be “different.” Each soul has so much to offer in their God-given lives. They should not be judged as “self-avowed” in our Discipline, nor ultimately in different areas of laity and clergy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rev Carder: thank you for this. I’m an LGBTQ Christian, and will continue to be so no matter what the church votes. I belong to a very loving, inclusive, diverse and grace-filled congregation of the United Methodist Church in California. They care a lot about me and I them. We also know a number of clergy candidates and folks who have a call to ministry, some of whom are LGBTQ. But the UMC global church has spoken, and I disagree profoundly with their interpretation of scripture and institutionalized discrimination against people like me. So I don’t think I can continue to be a member of the UMC. I would like to continue to be a Methodist however, and to worship and serve with these beautiful Christians. Many in my church feel the same way, but I don’t know if they would want to break away from the UMC. I don’t know if I or my friends have the energy to start a new church: maybe we do, I don’t know. I could go join the UCC in a neighboring town but they don’t sing as well as the Methodists! But seriously: what do we do now?
    Thanks for your thoughts on this, and your concern.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing candidly your hurt and quandary. I can’t fully know the depth of your hurt but I do grieve the pain that is being inflected on you and others who are LGBTQ Christians. I will not presume to advise you what to do about remaining in the UMC. However, I will say a few things. First, the General Conference is not The United Methodist Church. Local congregations are the primary context of the church’s mission and ministry. I’m delighted that you are experiencing acceptance and inclusion in your local church. Secondly, we need you in The United Methodist Church. The witness of LGBTQ people is making a difference in our local congregations and are helping to expand the boundaries toward more inclusion. Thirdly, I am convinced that change in the exclusionary language and practice is coming. It is slow but I’m convinced that it is only a matter of time until we as a denomination will be repenting of our homophobia and sinful exclusion. Still, I am not asking you who bear the primary pain of the present position to bear the weight of patience. You have been patient a long time already. Finally, I simply want to assure you that I and many of my colleague clergy and bishops are determined to work diligently on behalf of compassion, justice, and hospitality for LGBTQ people; and I want you and others to hold me accountable to do so! May God guide and empower us toward the beloved community Christ calls us to be!


  4. Perhaps the UMC should have divisions–one for the majority of members in the US who believe we should have an open church and one for the rest of the world. Other denominations survived this issue by having different branches or synods, all under the umbrella of their core beliefs. I have we haven’t gone so far that we cannot keep our eyes open to this kind of change.


  5. My hope is that all Methodists, whether they support the actions of Conference or oppose them, will adopt humility, conciliation, civility, and vision going forward. If I had been a delegate, I would have found it difficult to choose among the three plans. I would modestly suggest to those on the side of greater recognition of same-sex relationships that, while passion is expected, acrimony and self-certainty are off-putting to those of us who find these issues extraordinarily difficult. I pray we all together find paths forward that honor Christ’s way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ken, thank you for expressing our grief and shock. Here’s a theological reflection from Doug (he doesn’t have a blog, so it is on Facebook).

    A Statement on the Special General Conference
    M. Douglas Meeks
    If anyone doubted that the United Methodist Church is in crisis, the debacle of the Special 2019 General Conference should have removed any question about that. Sad to say, the General Conference, as expensive as it was in time and money, did nothing to end the crisis. Those who backed the One Church Plan are in despair and tempted to leave the church just as those who supported the Traditional Plan would have done had they “lost.” But this is not the time to leave the church. It is rather a time to become steadfastly present and vocal.
    Schism, breaking the Body of Jesus Christ, is never the answer. Schism is sinful; there is nothing heroic about it. In this time of crisis, we would do well to remember the most important Christian confession of the twentieth century, the Barmen Declaration. It was written out of the crisis brought on by the capture of all institutions, including the church, by Nazism. The Declaration defined the real problem for the church as the loss of the being of the church: Jesus Christ in the Triune God. This loss meant that the status confessionis was in effect, that is the necessity of the church to stand up and confess its Lord, the one act on which the truth of everything else in the church depends. In so doing we all need to confess our sin, the sin that has led to this crisis. That sin, at least in large part, is our misplaced trust in the invincibility of Methodist bigness and Methodist polity. Our sin is trusting implicitly in our bureaucracy, our “connection,” and our “democracy,” to solve problems that can only be addressed by our baptismal reality before God.
    As we split over slavery in 1844 (and the sin of racism is still with us), we are now, supposedly, splitting over homosexuality. But in the ways we have attempted to prevent the split we have trusted what we have created and not, and I’m sorry to say, the Triune God. We have trusted our Constitution (made by us and not sacrosanct), our modes of leadership (often debated and not eternal), our built-in regionalism (a primary deterrent to our serving the kingdom of God and not a historical necessity), and our cultural nationalism (so easily exalted but not the work of God). All of these are our products. In moments of recess from bureaucratic squabbling we bring the Bible into the picture, but we do so by employing one or another modern theory of biblical interpretation (literal reading and non-eschatological interpretation seem to be favorites on the fringes our denomination) in place of Jesus Christ. Our interpretation becomes scripture. Our interpretation becomes the standard of truth for ethical decisions. But the Bible is not the source of ideas that will support how we think everyone should be and act. The Bible is not our servant, it is the servant of God. The Bible points to the living crucified resurrected Jesus who is the judge and criterion of the Bible as well as of us. If the living Christ is our judge and savior, then we have to be much more circumspect about saying that the General Conference is the ultimate arbiter of truth – or, for that matter, bishops, pastors, professors, or lay organizations.
    The paltry ritual practices of baptism and communion in our denomination may be at the heart of our problem. We’ve come to view the sacraments as rituals that belong to the church. Quite to the contrary, the sacraments of baptism and communion are God’s instruments for creating the church. Without the reality of the sacraments in our lives, the gospel can hardly make sense. If we are not living baptism and communion in the totality of our lives, we are not getting that the gospel is actually meant for our life decisions. Without living the promises God makes and the promises we make in baptism, we will blithely go on thinking of ourselves as a voluntary association in which whoever interprets the rules will dominate. In this crisis, it must be remembered that we are a promised people, a fact which rightly makes us question, however much we appreciate it, democracy as an avenue to the truth. A vote does not decide the truth. Democracy is a form of government only for people who are willing to keep working together in search of the truth after votes are recorded. Living in the truth that is Jesus Christ in the Spirit requires something like what Acts 15 describes as the first Christian council, a sustained deliberation that ends “for it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us….” We can be thankful for all the hard work of those who prepared for the General Conference and carried it out while at the same time saying that three days to solve the crisis of the church is, please forgive me, a joke. The crisis can be dealt with only in localities (we need to study subsidiarity and conciliarism, well-proven wisdom in the church’s history, including the witness of John Wesley) and lived eucharistic experience (what Wesley called Practical Divinity). The crisis of the church, which extends well beyond the ethical question of homosexuality, can be addressed only by our trust in the real presence of Jesus Christ. But we have to be willing to stay at the table until a decision is made that is consonant with the living Christ and seems good to the Holy Spirit and all of us. We may think we have short-circuited the need for such patience in Christ by choosing to model ourselves on the bureaucratic governance of the United States. But does anyone doubt that the executive, legislative, and judicial structure of the United States is broken and will have to be transformed in order to protect what we Americans consider most crucial: “liberty and justice for all”? I believe the same is true of the UMC.
    I certainly don’t know what will or should transpire in the UMC in the coming months and years. What I do know is that no one who lives according to the promises of Jesus Christ and lives as one promised to Christ and who is in communion with the present Christ and the recipients of Christ’s grace may be dismissed from the church or denied ordination and marriage. Denominational purity according to our lights can easily become heresy. This moment of status confessionis will surely bring many surprises of conscience and of obedience to Jesus. The courageous declaration of the Western Jurisdiction at the end of the General Conference was inspiring because it pointed to the lordship of Jesus Christ, our only hope of being united. It may be the beginning of the new era of faithfulness in the United Methodist Church.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Doug and Blair, for this excellent statement! As always, you frame the situation in profound theological perspective. The idols within our polity and practices are crumbling and I pray that a new church will emerge that is truly a sign, foretaste, and instrument of God’s present and coming reign in Jesus Christ.


  7. Bishop Carder, you continue to be a bearer of LIGHT! I am grateful for your response, and look forward to each of your blogs, but today, was so in need of your word of encouragement and GRACE! I often mention you or something you’ve said in my sermons.


  8. Not only did they not do anything about the 1972 language, they made it worse! As Luther said, “Councils do err.” Many folks will leave the UMC over this. (We should drop the word “United”) Where are these “open minds” we celebrate?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I agree with you .

    On Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 11:13 AM Shifting Margins wrote:

    > kennethcarder posted: “I am deeply grieved, frustrated, and embarrassed by > the actions of the United Methodist General Conference. We not only did > harm to our LGBTQAI+ beloved sisters and brothers; we publicly bore false > witness to the Christian gospel and severely undermined ” >


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