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By Our Fruits.

The discussion around and about…unfortunately usually not with…LGBT inclusion has been building steam in my denomination.

I have been praying about my own beliefs for a long time but there has been no question for me on where I stand. Let me tell you why.

When I was a Senior in high school my best friend came out to me. There was much trepidation around this revelation because he knew I was a Christian and he had been burnt by Christians before. The preachers I knew never spoke against same-sex orientation…that I noticed anyway but I zoned out a lot. My parents, at that time, had never brought it up because this was NW Iowa, people, and we did NOT talk about that stuff. The only thing I knew was my experience of my friend…and my friend was, and continues to be, one of the nicest, most compassionate and intelligent people I have ever met.

So he came out and I said something to the effect that of course I loved him and those other Christians must be idiots for rejecting someone as wonderful as him. And that has been my “stance” ever since.

The discussion typically involves someone claiming Biblical truth and then they start slinging around Bible verses. There have been many excellent books written on what these verses mean. I encourage you to read up on the discussion. I have recently finally gotten it all together in my head.

There is this section in Romans 1 where Paul goes off on a rant about how God has abandoned pagan worshippers to “unnatural desires” like same-sex sex. The chapter continues with:

Since they didn’t think it was worthwhile to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to a defective mind to do inappropriate things. So they were filled with all injustice, wicked behavior, greed, and evil behavior. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, and malice. They are gossips, they slander people, and they hate God. They are rude and proud, and they brag. They invent ways to be evil, and they are disobedient to their parents. They are without understanding, disloyal, without affection, and without mercy.

In chapter 2 (btw, the chapter markers were added MUCH later so we would do well to read the Bible more continuously and less in a plucking out a pericope fashion) Paul then goes on to talk about how those who judge are probably hypocritical and therefore just as bad.

What we appear to have from Paul, in my understanding, is a list of behaviors that spring from a disbelief in God and the fruit of that disbelief are broken relationships. Not only that, but encouragement for others to break relationships. Every behavior of the people being called out by Paul is about objectifying other people. This caused me to think about the words of Jesus.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves. You will know them by their fruit. Do people get bunches of grapes from thorny weeds, or do they get figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and every rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit. And a rotten tree can’t produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, you will know them by their fruit. (Matthew 7:15-20, CEB)

Paul might be speaking about rotten trees, including those who judge others without attending to their own health first. But experience has taught me…and many others…that LGBTQ lives and loves are not signs of rotten trees. There is good fruit from the lives, loves, and ministry of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. If practicing their love was so awful, so sinful, that it must be condemned in every form, then I would expect there to be consistently bad fruit. Except that’s not what we see at all.

To be fair-ish. I also don’t see rotten fruit from every single person who struggles with the question of whether or not certain behaviors are sinful. Some I do…especially those who have made it their focus to preach and teach on it. But some folks are just folks who haven’t had a chance to really be taught different, or ask their questions, or sit with the possibility for a new perspective long enough. Some folks need us to be able to talk about what is sinful behavior in any sexual orientation and what is healthy before they can really become advocates.

Some of the best people I know are LGBTQ, and some of the best people I know are just now considering the possibility that it’s ok to be a practicing LGBTQ person. We will know them, and ourselves, by our fruit.


alexis

Alexis Johnson is a mom of two, married to a seminary student/new clergy, an Ordained Elder in the Iowa UMC, and feeds three furry mammals. So busy. Alexis is busy. But she is passionate about God and passionate about people. She is always up for good conversations and connecting, especially if there is coffee or wine involved.

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Facebook Prayer Time

Rev. Katie Bishop

It is 8:30 pm on Thursday night and I am sitting on my living room couch. My iPad has the latest Upper Room devotional open and my laptop computer is open to a post from my Facebook feed. In the palm of my hand, my phone is open and after a deep breath, I press “Go Live.” It is Thursday night. Prayer time.

About six months ago, amid some real struggle in our broader community – real heartbreak – I started this Thursday night prayer time. Out of a desire to speak HOPE, I flipped my phone’s Facebook app open and started to pray. As people gathered to watch, the movement of the Spirit was palpable. Tangible. Powerful. Even across the screen.

Since then, I have posted an invitation soliciting prayer requests on my Facebook page every Thursday morning. And every Thursday night – sometime between 7 and 10, I hop on Facebook Live to gather God’s people.

We start with the Upper Room’s daily scripture reading and then move into the prayer requests that people have posted on my feed. People are invited to add requests to the Live Feed, and most do. To finish our time, I remind people why we pray.

First, prayer helps align our hearts to God. We step outside of ourselves and center ourselves in God’s Spirit.

Second, prayer activates the Big God Family – the community of believers. As we lift up prayers and concerns, we can witness the ways God has blessed us, testify the power of resurrection in our lives, and stand with each other in brokenness. This has been one of the greatest blessings about Thursday night prayer. Since we have been praying overtime, we have been able to celebrate how God is work in our world. We have celebrated answered prayers. We have celebrated changed expectations. We have celebrated God’s grace even in the brokenness.

Finally, prayer witnesses God’s action in the world around us. We recognize that God is not done with us yet. That God is still moving in the world around us. That God uses us as God’s hands and feet to usher in the Kingdom.

After I speak these truths out loud, we pray. I pray with words, those watching pray with me. Comments continue to fill the screen as a chorus of “hearts” and “likes” join the words that are uttered. We pray. Across phones and iPads, computer screens – we pray. Sometimes by ourselves – sometimes with others.

And when I say “Amen,” a chorus of Amens join in.

I remind everyone they are loved – and it is done.

In total, most weeks, it is about 5-7 minutes. Sometimes – if I have more prayer requests, or if my two daughters “help” then it is longer. But really, it is just a few minutes – across screens for prayer.

The big question is – why?

And for me, it gets back to my Methodist roots. Wesley, when starting a movement of revival in England, went to where the people were. Why do we, as the church, wait for people to come to us? Wesley went to where the people were, “submitting to be more vile” – a quote from his April 2, 1739  journal – so that people would come to know God’s love and grace.  He was willing to meet them in their brokenness, in their everyday, in their ordinary, in their heartache. Why do we, as the church, refuse to move to where the people are?

Facebook – it is where people are. And love it or hate it, there is a huge segment of our population that are always on Facebook. It is where we share stories of our greatest joys and our greatest struggles. It is where we “connect” – however inauthentic or authentic it may be.

And taking time every Thursday to pray, seeks to meet people where they are, resurrecting the brokenness, the heartache, the ordinary.

It is not much – by any stretch of the imagination. It is very simple. It takes hardly any time and very little effort.

But it is powerful. It is Spirit-filled. It is resurrecting.

So, if you are feeling a burdened, or broken, lost or weary… If you feel like you need some Family time… If you have seen God move and can’t keep it to yourself… come and join us some Thursday. We are but a click away.


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Katie Bishop is a United Methodist pastor serving in Frederick County, Maryland. She is married to Chris, also a pastor in the UMC, and they have three children- Eden (10), Bethany (5) and a son they are waiting on from Haiti.

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When Books Pick You

     Have you ever had a book pick you? Recently, my family traveled to stay at Lake Erie. We were doing some shopping as a family. My seven year old asked to go into the bookstore. So I journeyed with her to the children’s section. While I was waiting, I thought I will peruse the religious section beside the children’s section.  My eyes rolled across book after book. There was one book that I noticed, but I was not in a book buying mood.

     I walked back to my daughter and discussed her selection.  As I walked to the front, I picked up the book that had caught my eye. I actually thought to myself, you don’t need another book. I didn’t even know what the book was about. Waiting for the cashier, I glanced at the back of the book. I noticed that two of the people making comments were football people, Tony Dungy and Chris Carter. I was still not excited by this book, but I could not convince myself to put it down. I purchased the books, one for my daughter and one for myself. As I exited the store, I chastised myself in my head to myself about all the books I own that are not read or not fully read. “All I need is another book.”

    The next day I started reading the book. I was finished reading in 3 days. I believe the Holy Spirit prompted me to make my purchase of the book that day. I am very thankful for the promptings of the Spirit.  That book was exactly what my heart needed. It very much prepared me for the journey I would take in the next couple of weeks.

    In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born of water and the Spirit. Uncertain of Jesus’ words, Nicodemus questions the meaning of this birth. In today’s world, I fear, we have lost our understanding of what it means to be born of the Spirit. When we accept Christ we become a vessel of the Spirit. That means we are transformed by the Spirit of the Living God. Wow! Impressive! Overwhelming! How amazing is it that we can be filled with, transformed and guided by the Holy Spirit!

    In the world today we need the Holy Spirit so desperately as we encounter issues such as addiction, diseases, financial crisis, and relationships (just to name a few). I am drawn to the words of Francesca Battistelli’s song, “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. Your glory God is what my heart longs for to be overcome by your presence Lord.”


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Kara Rowe is an ordained Elder in the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She currently serves Newell and First Chester United Methodist Churches. She lives in New Cumberland, West Virginia with her husband, Michael and her three children: Caleb, Abigail, and Jakoba. In Kara’s free time she is a crime fighting ninja, but don’t blow her cover!