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Praying through the Controversy

In Acts 2, we find the earliest description of what the ancient Church looked like:

43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. 44 All the believers were united and shared everything. 45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved. (Acts 2:43-47)

Admittedly, in today’s climate of divisiveness over controversial issues, this description of what the church was meant to be can seem like a distant dream. In recent days, the rhetoric has heightened once again as news agencies have released articles highlighting the current debate over homosexuality in the United Methodist Church. Many of these articles have painted an inaccurate picture of the current reality in our denomination, yet the issue is real. To read Bishop Lowry’s response to these most recent stories in the press, click here.

As your pastor, I want you to know that the issues facing our church have been at the center of much personal prayer, reflection and study for the past several years. While I have my own convictions on this matter, I hold fast to the vision of a unified church as described in Acts 2. I possess a deep compassion and empathy for those in our fellowship who have beliefs that differ from my own, and I am committed to doing all I possibly can to create a space at St. Philip’s for people across the theological spectrum. It is my belief that our common commitment to the message of Grace through the cross of Jesus Christ will continue to hold us together.

On Wednesday, January 15th, Kyren Schultz and I will be leading a series of four conversations we are calling, Praying Through the Controversy: The Bible, Human Sexuality, and the UMC. These conversations are part of a wider program we are calling Sacred Space, and will include a meal, nursery, and children’s and youth programming. The dates for Sacred Space are: January 15, February 5, March 4, and April 1. Food will be served from 5PM until 6, with programming beginning at 6:00. There is a small cost for the meal of $5/person with a $20 family maximum. Adults will be gathering in the chapel for Praying Through the Controversy. During this time, we will be reviewing the history of the debate in the UMC, taking a deep dive into scripture related to human sexuality, and discussing possible outcomes of General Conference and the ramifications for our local church. I will also be sharing my own personal beliefs regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the local church. These conversations will be held in an attitude of prayerful conversations, respectful listening and discernment of the Holy Spirit. Youth are welcome to participate with parent/guardian permission. It is my goal that our time together will be uplifting, enlightening and encouraging to all.

As I have said in previous posts and conversations, nothing has changed. St. Philip’s UMC remains a church that is committed to moving people into deeper relationship with God and one another as we lift high the name of Jesus, grow in our faith, and serve those in need together. The Church of Jesus Christ has weathered centuries of persecution, schism and cultural opposition. Through it all, Christ remains! May the grace and peace of God abound in your heart today, as we continue to build the kingdom of God in Brushy Creek.

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