A very large split is happening in some churches, these days. You might have heard of the United Methodist Church, a very large denomination with many churches, and their arguments about sexual identity.
One of the largest Christian communities in the world is falling apart.
This morning I went for a walk with some neighbors and someone remembered me from many years ago. I asked him where we met, and he named my old family church. He still recognized me, after all these years. We talked, and he explained that he lived near us, with his husband.
I tried to avoid an awkward pause in the conversation.
At our church, a lady that we know was talking to some of us, including a pastor. She talked about her life, and what was happening to her. One issue was that she had recently broken up with her girlfriend.
That was awkward.
You probably have similar stories.
So, with Gay, Trans, LGBTQ or any identification; what should we do? There are other issues, like abortion, and the list can be much longer.
The world is moving in some new directions, and the moves can divide us.
We can argue and fight about the surface issues, like everyone else. Churches are splitting and probably old friends are not speaking to each other. There is something else we can do:
The great sin, in modern thinking, is intolerance, the failure to accept, being unwelcoming, rejecting. And who wants to be intolerant?
There is a different way. Two thousand years ago, a carpenter named Jesus walked up to people and told them “follow me.” That meant change, a new life, different from the old one.
A few years later, a man named Saul, who hated the followers of Jesus, was blinded by a light and fell to the ground. When he recovered, he changed his name to Paul, and changed his direction to follow Jesus. His new life was completely different from his old life. He wrote a large part of the Christian New Testament and built the Christian community that he had tried to destroy.
Millions of people had this life-changing experience, over many centuries, and then an Anglican priest, John Wesley, in London, attended a service with some Moravian Christians, refugees from Central Europe. The year was 1738. In that service, he reported, “My heart was strangely warmed.”
He changed completely from that time, and founded and then for the rest of his life worked to build, the Methodist movement.
Another Anglican priest, twenty-two years younger than Wesley, had his own conversion experience. In his new and changed life, John Newton wrote these words “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” Those are words in the song “Amazing Grace” from a slave trader who dedicated his life to fighting and ending the slave trade, in his new life.
And the story continues, among the Methodists:
The problem with the tolerance side is that it will never tolerate change. People must be what they are and remain in the position they are assigned to. Changing and finding a new life is impossible. We can never grow tired of our lifestyle and find a new life, we can only accept what we are assigned.
The difference is stark. The division among the modern Methodists is ‘no change versus always change.’ There is no middle ground, and so a huge denomination is splitting.
In the end, they will form two different religions, going in completely different directions.
That is true for all of us, in large or small groups, or one at a time. The foundational philosophy, or theology that we believe, will dominate our lives. Arguments and disputes on the surface are only symptoms.
Jesus told us “Follow me and I will make you … ” (Mark 1:17)