Earlier this week, I learned something. In Norway, “Texas” has become a slang word that means insane, crazy, or chaotic—as in, “That’s totally Texas!” Supposedly, western movies were popular in Norway in the 1950’s and many of those movies that portrayed that wild and chaotic era featured Texas as the setting, thus giving birth to the slang. It made my Texan heart proud—then upon further reading I realized it meant wild or crazy in a very literal sense and not in a sense that paints Texas in a good light. I could think of at least 3 other states…. That’s beside the point… Norwegians say it has nothing to do with what they actually think about Texans and that it’s just a word they learned, but there’s no denying where it came from.
It reminds me of a book I read years ago called, “Un-Christian.” In the book, the authors assert that Christians are better known by outsiders for all the things they are against rather than the things they stand for. By and large, Christians appear to outsiders as judgmental hypocrites, and it’s not surprising if you think about it. We all know someone who’s been burned by a bad church experience at some point in their lives. And frankly, the general conference that looms large over the next several days isn’t doing we Methodists any favors in that department.
In a blog post on February 20, Bishop Mike McKee wrote a letter to the clergy and laity of the North Texas Conference:
“At the conclusion of the General Conference on Tuesday, Feb. 26, decisions will have been made. Some will agree, and others will disagree. Whatever the conclusion, let us agree to continue to attend to the mission of the Church. On Wednesday following General Conference, hundreds of pastors and laypersons will visit patients in the hospital needing words of comfort. Hundreds of children will be tutored in public schools by United Methodist laity. Others will hear of the grace offered by Jesus Christ. On Sunday, more will find their faith home, be baptized and join one of the churches in the North Texas Conference. Let’s not forget that the work of Christ that laity and clergy are called to do continues.”
I think what bothers me most is that this denomination that I love has been defined by a singular issue as of late, because I know that’s not who we are. During a difficult time in my life, I came to the United Methodist Church of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors.” Rather, I should say I was invited, welcomed, loved and transformed by that church, so to be at a point in the church’s history where going our separate ways because we can’t agree is a conversation people are having right now is heartbreaking to me. And don’t hear me say that I feel as if I’m above it because I’m not. I’m human and prone to the same disease of feeling right way more often than I probably am. I have my opinions and convictions, and there are days when I struggle to suspend judgements. We strive for perfection together because deepening discipleship through our connections with God, People, and Purpose opens us up and lets God transform us, and allows God to draw us a little closer each day. General conference will come and go, and God will still be God, and the call that’s been placed on our lives to be disciples of Jesus will not have changed. And lest people start saying, “That’s totally Methodist,” I pray this week that the denomination can get back to the business at hand of making disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world, and I pray that we can once again model oneness in the body of Christ—honoring both unity and diversity in a way that models a way forward for a culture bent on binaries. Please remember to set your alarm for 2:23 p.m. to pray each day this week–for us, for the church, and for where God will inevitably show up.
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Thank you Matt for your thoughts. Wadette Matthews