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Building Relationships

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“I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
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.”

–Ephesians 4:2-3

Last week, I attended the Leadership Institute at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. The topics for the three days were focused on both the future of The United Methodist Church and looking back at our denominational past. We heard speakers, including many of our Bishops, share thoughts and possible plans to change our denominational structure when it comes to how we welcome LGBTQ persons into the full life of the church. We heard others share about our past as a denomination that has included separating and withholding full inclusion of African Americans and women in the full life of the church.

There is much to think and pray about in our global denomination as we move toward our General Conference in May of 2020. There is also much to learn from our past and much to repent and ask forgiveness for in our past. One of the common threads that weaved through talk of the future and reflection on the past, was the necessity of building healthy and intentional relationships with others, especially others that are different from us.

In our 21st century, we have so many ways to be in relationship with others through various forms of social media and technology. Many of those ways serve us well, but I continue to reflect on the value of being in the physical presence of other living, breathing human beings as often as we can to build relationships. It is harder to exclude, reject, discriminate or even speak poorly of others when we actually know them because we have built a relationship with them.

Our communities, country, churches and world often seem more divided than ever socially, economically, politically, and theologically. Those divisions make the work of unity and inclusion over race, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity even more difficult. And often the divisions that we allowed to separate us have given rise to acts of violence or the threat of violence; to increased anxiety and depression; and to the rise of loneliness and hopelessness.

Building relationships offers opportunities to remind others in words and actions that they are loved. There are several truths that we intentionally and consistently express to our children and youth in many forms in our ministry together. Those truths are that there is a God, God loves you, you are a child of God, and God wants a relationship with you.

Relationships make up the majority of our living and are more important than our social, political, or theological beliefs or convictions. So, I invite us to continue to do the hard work of finding ways to build and nurture relationships with others, knowing that our model comes from the life and witness of Jesus.