St. Louis, Lent and Our Way Forward
United Methodists from all over the world met in St. Louis this past week in a Special Session of the General Conference---the only body that has the power to speak on behalf of the entire church. They reaffirmed the teachings of Jesus that the covenant of marriage was established by God who created us male and female for each other. This was and will be our direction of service as a church. The decision caps 3 years of research, dialog and prayer. Our denomination spent $3.5 million to hold this special conference. The results are going to stand for a generation.
The decision also reaffirmed the Gospel teaching that all people heterosexual or LGBT are of sacred worth before God. All are welcome to participate in our services and ministries because everyone needs Jesus! Jesus is for us all, not against us. His call is radical and inclusive: “Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.” There is abundant hope for all people. Every life is worth living because of the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. So we continue to open our hearts in love and hope for all.
I gratefully accept the results of the General Conference and pledge to remain faithful to the teachings of the Gospel and of the United Methodist Church. We remain a deeply divided denomination but we are not likely to see another debate like this for a generation. There are indications that some segments of the denomination are considering formal separation from the United Methodist Church. This was perhaps inevitable. The unfinished business before us now is how to become a unified movement again? The answer seems unclear and uncertain at present. Our confidence is in Jesus Christ. He is the vine and we are the branches. Our heavenly Father is the vinedresser. The Father tends the vine, nurtures it and prunes the branches so that they can be more fruitful. I believe the Holy Spirit remains active among us. He leads us through painful but necessary transitions for a greater purpose. Be not afraid, we are not alone. We are not a human organization. We are the body of Christ.
It’s appropriate that the season of Lent begins this coming Ash Wednesday with services at 7 PM in the gym of the FLC. John Wesley once said the three main doctrines of the Christian faith are repentance, faith and holiness. Everything else can be gathered under one of these headings. Lent is the season of 40 days of spiritual preparation for Easter. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for 40 days where he was tested by Satan. Emerging victorious Jesus then launched his ministry. We need the Holy Spirit more than ever to lead us freshly through repentance, faith and into holiness. Our theme will be 40 days with the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to purchase the devotional book of the same name by Jack Levison. Each Thursday night from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM I will lead a Holy Spirit prayer meeting in room B1-B2 of the FLC concluding with Holy Communion. The future is not assured in our own might and power but by the Spirit of God. Seek him now.
Connect, Grow, Serve
Pastor Tom Anderson