Dear Resurrection Family,
I’m writing this note from Puerto Rico where, this evening, I’ll be participating in the rededication for the Samuel Culpepper Methodist Church, a church that was damaged in 2017 by Hurricane Maria, and which teams from Resurrection have been helping rebuild. I’ll be sharing a message with the congregation tonight. Tomorrow I’ll teach leadership, preaching and outreach all day to 700+ pastors and church leaders from across Puerto Rico. Would you take a moment right now to please pray for the leaders and churches here, and for me, that God would use me to bless them?
This weekend, Executive Pastor Glen Shoup will preach live at Leawood and on video at the Blue Springs campus, while Pastor Jason will preach at West and Pastor Anne downtown. Pastor Glen will have a special Memorial Day message on Lessons of Faith from D-Day.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day when, on the beaches of Normandy, the tide of tyranny was turned in favor of freedom and liberation. The sacrifice and perseverance of these young people who offered themselves in freedom’s cause, has much to teach us about life and faith. We’ll meet some of the men who served in the European liberation, we’ll find the Gospel message woven through the persistence and sacrifice of so many, and during each worship service, we’ll recognize all those who have put themselves on the line in service for the rest of us.
Memorial Day Weekend, as you likely know, began in the aftermath of the Civil War as a way of honoring those who died in battle. It was originally called Decoration Day.
Today we honor not only those who died in battle, but more generally all our loved ones who have died, particularly those who have died in the last year. Some of you will take flowers to the graves of loved ones. I encourage you to take some time this weekend, as we will do in worship throughout the weekend, to remember our loved ones who have gone before us into God’s eternal Kingdom. At Leawood, we’ll have a list in the prayer chapel (just outside the Sanctuary main doors, and in the Firestone Chapel) with the names of those associated with our church who passed away during the past year if you’d like to spend some additional time in prayer this weekend.
Please note that our church buildings will be closed in observance of Memorial Day on Monday, May 28. Those with loved ones inurned in the Wesley Memorial Garden on the Leawood Campus, or who simply want to pray there, you may access the Memorial Garden in the courtyard of Building C through the South Entrance (the door is labeled South Entrance) from 10 am – 2 pm.
Last weekend our new campus, Resurrection Overland Park, held its first Coffee with the Pastors to allow former Valley View UMC members to join Resurrection. It was a terrific event with 90 adults and children joining the church. Resurrection Overland Park, located one block east of Antioch on 95th Street, will officially launch in August, but Pastor Joshua Clough is holding weekly gatherings to prepare for the launch. We’ll have another Coffee with the Pastors for those who were unable to attend this last weekend.
The names of those who joined on Sunday appear at the bottom of my enote. Be sure to look them over and reach out to those you know to welcome them to the Church of the Resurrection. We are one church in multiple locations and those who join at any campus are members at all of our campuses. Welcome, new members!
771 Donors gave 745 units this week… just in time for Memorial Day community needs, while volunteers served up 68 Tippin’s Pies and over 350 sizzling hot dogs! Despite drenching downpours, we finished Monday with record numbers of donors and collections. Tuesday dried out a bit, with very solid results for the day. Know how proud I am of each of you who donate and/or serve at the Blood Drive!
A Church Conference will be held on Tuesday, June 4, at 6 pm to vote on our Staff Parish Relations Committee’s recommendations for pastoral compensation for 2019-2020 and to approve two candidates seeking to become United Methodist pastors, James Cochran and Chris Folmsbee. James oversees our counseling ministry and Chris leads our adult discipleship programming. I’m excited that they are taking the steps towards become licensed pastors in the United Methodist Church.
The compensation vote is an important part of accountability and transparency built into our system. You vote on my compensation package annually and on the total compensation of our other clergy. All are invited, with voting restricted to church members. Registration not required, childcare available.
As you know, this week Resurrection hosted more than 600 church leaders (participation was limited to 600 people to allow for round table discussions – over 2,600 applied to attend) for a three-day conversation called UMC Next about the future of the United Methodist Church in the aftermath of February’s General Conference. Participants included ten leaders from every annual conference in the U.S., both laity and clergy among which were many of the pastors of our leading congregations as well as 12 bishops representing the Council of Bishops, 8 seminary presidents or deans, and most of the general secretaries of our boards and agencies.
It was remarkable watching and listening to the meaningful conversations taking place around tables in our Foundry Hall this week. It was challenging, moving and, in the end, hope-filled.
The group focused on where the UMC goes from here, given our current divisions. Some conservative caucuses in the church would like the UMC to dissolve in order to form two or three new Wesleyan denominations loosely held together by a few common entities (the Board of Pensions among them). We discussed this, and many support it, but there is a concern for the unintended consequences for many churches who would be forced to decide which of the new expression they would join even as their own congregations are deeply divided, as well as the consequences for many of our United Methodist ministries and institutions.
Others would prefer to remain in the church and simply resist what they consider unjust laws recently passed at General Conference. They are willing to allow conservative groups to leave in an amicable separation as they have requested for years, but don’t wish to dissolve the UMC. Both of these paths will continue to be explored.
The following statement captured points of agreement and commitments that emerged during the UMC Next event:
This work will continue, along with conversations among the various parties in the UMC leading up to May of 2020 when General Conference will meet again.
I’ve had several of you ask, “Why does this matter so much to you?” Or, as one person asked, “Why have you become such a champion for same-sex marriage?” I see myself as a champion for people that I love and care about in our congregation who have a history of being hurt by the church, and who were hurt once more by the recent General Conference. I also believe that LGBTQ persons are not only people of sacred worth as our Book of Discipline says, but that they should be able to marry and have their marriages recognized in and by the church.
I also feel strongly that we must read scripture in the light of its historical context, through the lens of Jesus and the character of God he reveals. We read it with the help of the Holy Spirit, and informed by tradition, experience and reason. Scholars recognize that the biblical authors themselves questioned or challenged what previous biblical authors had written. Job counters the theology of the Chronicler. Malachi challenges Ezra’s teaching on divorce. Jesus challenged Moses, and many of the prevailing understandings of scripture in his time. The apostles questioned whether God’s clear command to Abraham concerning circumcision and the many laws given to Moses were applicable in the church.
There are many things in scripture that we question today as unjust, inappropriate or not applicable as written. Deuteronomy required that a man who rapes a woman pay her father 50 shekels and that he must marry and never divorce her (Deut 22:28-29) – in that historical context this law was about providing for a woman who was wronged, but points to just how much historical context shapes scripture and to a law we would find completely inappropriate today. Paul tells people who divorce that they may not re-marry unless they remarry the spouse they divorced (1 Cor. 7). The Bible forbids tattoos and eating shellfish and pork, yet today many Christians have tattoos and eat pork and shellfish – something made possible by Paul’s theological reflection on the Law. Parents were to discipline their children with rods, but today we believe that beating your children may be harmful to them. Paul forbids women from teaching men or speaking in the church and Paul grounds his teaching about the subordination of women on the Genesis creation story (1 Timothy 2:11-15). Thankfully we’ve recognized the cultural context of Paul’s teaching about women’s leadership and we allow women to teach and preach today (though many conservative Protestant denominations, as well as Catholics and Orthodox Christians, continue to prohibit women as priests or pastors). For 1,500 years most Christians took the Genesis creation stories literally and read them in such a way that Galileo’s view that the earth revolved around the sun was deemed heresy and his books banned.
I could go on with dozens of additional examples.
There are differing interpretive (hermeneutical) principles in how we interpret these passages, my point is that there has always been room to dialogue with, interpret and debate why scripture teaches what it does and how we interpret and apply it today. Today Christians debate the context and meaning of the handful of passages that forbid some form of same-sex acts, and whether these apply to gay and lesbian people today.
I mention all of this to say that it is this debate that United Methodist Christians are having today. It is a debate about scriptural interpretation – I believe traditionalists in the UMC do love and care for LGBTQ persons and wish to welcome them – I know that is true of those at Resurrection who hold more traditional understandings of marriage. What we are debating is how we read these texts. This is why I’ve sought to have a UMC where we both allow those with convictions that lead them to support same-sex marriage to minister according to these convictions, while allowing for those who are traditionalists to maintain their convictions – the key is that we hold our convictions and practice them with love.
Regarding the future of the UMC, I suspect that by May of 2020 one of three things will have happened:
Okay, that may be way more than you wanted to know. Here’s what specifically matters for you: Your volunteers and staff hosted a meeting this week that was a very important step in discerning what is next. And while we have lost a few people in the last few months who were unhappy that we were talking about this, or that I clearly stated my support for LGBTQ persons to marry, we’ve also gained hundreds more since General Conference – people who have indicated that they want to be a part of a church that doesn’t treat their LGBTQ friends as second class.
I know I’ve been talking about this a lot since General Conference. My intention is not for this to be our primary focus as a church; our focus is on following Jesus, growing as his disciples and being the Christians and church he calls us to be. But following GC it was important that we talk about these things, in part because of our church’s role of leadership in the denomination. But this is my last lengthy report for some time – I just thought you’d appreciate a summary of what happened this last week.
Looking forward to joining in worship from Puerto Rico Sunday morning!
In Christ’s Love,
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