“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Unity has become a big topic in our United Methodist denomination as we continue to talk about whether we can stay together as a denomination because of our disunity over things like how we interpret Scripture when it comes to issues of human sexuality. As a world-wide denomination, we struggle with various worldviews and we all bring our own personal views of what is right or wrong.
At the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, the Bishops were charged with helping the denomination find a way forward on the issues of human sexuality. So, the Commission on the Way Forward was developed with representation from around the world. They have been meeting for two years and are at the point of passing on possible scenarios for the Council of Bishops to consider and bring to a specially called General Conference in February, 2019 in St. Louis, MO. The Council of Bishops will meet this week in Chicago to consider the recommendations.
When we consider ‘unity,’ we are reminded that as a denomination we have ‘United’ in our name as The United Methodist Church. Last week, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of our uniting. The United Methodist Church was created on April 23, 1968, when The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church joined to form a new denomination. This united of two denominations had been in the making for more than 10 years and struggled with issues that divided us over racial segregation. Finally, the Uniting Conference took place only a couple of weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and in the midst of riots and protests over the war in Vietnam.
In every age, there are issues that divide us, whether as religious denominations or just as God’s people working to live together. It is important to remember that unity does not mean uniformity, but unity is a relational understanding of how we consider every person as a child of God.
May our prayers for the Council of Bishops and our United Methodist Church be offered with humility and gentleness as we hold fast to the unity we shared in Jesus, the risen Christ.