Making Space for Grace
When I spoke to you in my Communion Service message at this year's Annual Conference Session, I talked about the excuses we make to ourselves to justify our attitudes and behavior. We have a way of rationalizing under the guise that "we have a right." What we're really saying is that we "have a right" to be less than who Christ calls us to be.
We have a human understanding of what is "right" and "proper," and "just" and "fair," but human standards are not always aligned with God's standards.
God has something else in mind. God invites us into a different understanding of how we are to live. There is a love and power we're called to claim that can give us a Spirit-inspired ability to get beyond all of our excuses, our rationalizations, and all of our justifications.
In that Communion message, I reminded us that Jesus offered his very life to create a space for Grace, a space where we might discover the full power of letting go of our hates and our fears, thus allowing love to do its work in us.
It is appropriate then, as we seek healing from the disappointments and divisiveness at General Conference.
In the past few weeks, the blogosphere has been filled with passionate rhetoric from people on both sides of the issue deeply dividing our Church. The issue, in essence, is who is included and who is our neighbor? And just last week, a Bay Area journalism group uploaded to YouTube a documentary titled The Other Convention: A Church Votes on Gay Rights, which features members of the California-Nevada Annual Conference on both sides of the issue. I believe that it offers a balanced depiction of the points of view and issues involved, but typically, in discussions of matters of high sensitivity, no one is happy. Concerns may be expressed.
I understand that everyone engaged in this struggle feels deeply and cares intensely. It pains me deeply to see my Church so divided when we should be a community of welcome for all people. But make no mistake: My constituency is the whole Church, not just one segment of it. My role is to be bishop to the whole Church. And I am called to balance pastoral responsibilities with my duty to uphold the law of the Church.
That I will do. But I want you to understand that I will never stop listening to your voices.
In that sermon at Annual Conference Session, I asked this question: "How do we go forward from this place?" And what I said was that I believe we must create space for Grace.
Whatever our beliefs, and however passionately we may believe them, our reality is that there are people who disagree with us – and they too are people who reflect the image of God. They are people whom God loves, as are we. We must find a way of not letting our understandings or our preferences so rule us that we fail to recognize that – as clear as we believe we are, our understanding is imperfect.
We must continue to labor in these ways and we must continue in prayer. We must go forward together in the movement that God calls us to, as people who love the Lord and love our neighbor as ourselves.