What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:4-5
With the meaning of Christmas still fresh in our minds, we in The United Methodist Church continue to struggle when it comes to matters of human sexuality and a more fully inclusive church.
The gospel writer of John talks about the coming of God into the world in the person of Jesus at Christmas by saying that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. Jesus came into the world during a messy time when society, government and institutions were struggling. Still today, we remember Jesus and his coming into the world when things do not always look right in the world or in the church.
One of the plans coming before our United Methodist denomination that is receiving much attention is called, “A Protocol for Reconciliation & Grace through Separation.” This particular plan was developed by a small group of representatives from theological perspectives that would be considered progressive, conservative and centrist. The process in developing this plan was done in consultation with a professional mediator and leadership from bishops both inside and outside the United States.
This proposed plan allows for churches who wish to leave the denomination to do so and form a new Methodist denomination with funds provided to help get them started. This plan keeps The United Methodist Church intact for those who wish to remain and removes all the discriminatory and exclusionary language and policies from our Book of Discipline in regards to LGBTQ persons.
This is one of several plans regarding the structure of the denomination that will come to the General Conference in May for consideration, discernment and debate. The General Conference of The United Methodist Church is the only decision-making body that can speak for the denomination. The next meeting of the General Conference will be May 5-14 in Minneapolis, MN.
There will be no perfect plan or scenario when it comes to the future of our denomination, but glimmers of grace and hope continue to be seen in the faithfulness of people who love God, love the church and who seek to resist harm toward any of God’s children. When we think about the struggles Jesus faced coming into this messy world and then the challenges he faced during his life and ministry, we can really think of this time within the life of our denomination as a manger moment. God coming into the world in Jesus and God’s presence with us still, through the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit, all points to a way of life where we take care of each other and where we are considered beloved children of God.
As we seek a future where all God’s children are welcome and seen as beloved within the full life of the Church, may we remember that even in the darkness, God’s light shines. And the light of that love shines in the darkness and the darkness has not, cannot, and will not overcome it. Thanks be to God!