Yesterday was a long day, starting off with a root canal, followed by a busy day at work, and then stopping by at a Vestry meeting to talk about changes going on in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Underlying all of this was the ongoing drama of the United Methodist Church General Conference, where they are struggling with the role of LGBTQ people in the church. At the same time, I am preparing for my final discernment committee meeting where we will be talking about Obedience.

Recently, it has been a struggle to keep up on the various online classes I’m taking, get a poem written every day and find enough time for other writing, family time, prayer, sleep, and exercise. At different times, I have been needing to let one or another slip, and have sought to juggle things as best as I could, as obediently as I could.

In the discernment manual, the section on obedience starts off

The word obedience derives from the Latin word to “hear or listen deeply.” How are the words “obedience” and “listen” related in his or her life?

Who or what are you listening to? It feels like in much of the discussion around LGBTQ people in the Methodist Church, there is very little listening. If there is listening, it is to people with shared opinions, and not people with other opinions, and, I dare say, not to the Holy Spirit, or to the still small voice of God.

As I listen to the proceedings of the UMCGC online, and read the social media accounts, I wonder, where is God in all of this? There are times that one person or another talks about praying for General Conference and the United Methodist Church, but it sounds like an afterthought or an effort to rally supporters to one’s side. Instead, the focus seems to be on voting, and parliamentary procedures designed at getting one’s own way, and not seeking God’s way.

It feels like I am reading one of the Old Testament lessons where God says to a prophet, the people of Israel have abandoned my way, and a prophet is needed. Let me be clear, I am not talking about whether homosexuality is right or wrong, or even, really, about whether LGBTQ people should be allowed to marry or be ordained. I am talking about the underlying issues of praying and listening to God. I am talking about loving the Lord with one’s whole heart and one’s neighbor as oneself.

At vestry, we talked about the diocesan mission committee, about the regional convocations and the ministry network convocation, about ministry networks, and about how it feels like the process of selecting leaders is moving away from a worship of legislative procedures back to worshiping God and trying to listen to God.

I am excited about what is going on in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. I am grieved by what is going at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. As I keep praying about it, I think about the Great Awakenings. I think about them, not in terms of the fire and brimstone preaching, but in the social justice they brought. I think about people being drawn to God who had not been accepted as equals, about people of color and women.

What we need now is another great awakening, one that calls for repentance of the sin of not loving our neighbor as ourselves, one that brings in, instead of excludes, those whom the self-righteous think are incompatible with Christianity.

I think the seeds of such an awakening is there, are sprouting and starting to grow, and I pray the whole church, my Methodist friends, my Episcopal friends, my friends in other denominations, those who are different from me in their beliefs and lifestyles, whom I have not gotten to know, whom I have not listened to, who love God deeply in ways I do not yet understand.

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