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Monday, May 19, 2008

Whatever it takes?

In the United Methodist Church, we talk a lot about "open doors." We want to share the message that people who don't look like us, who don't have all the religious questions sorted out for themselves, who may find other doors and tables closed to them, and who speak other languages and are from many parts of the world are welcome. It's a statement that we seek to live into, recognizing that on any given day (not just Sunday), we are evaluated by our openness.

So I was struck by the recent situation in Bertha, Minnesota where an autistic boy (granted, a large 200+ pound, 6 foot boy) has disturbed worship and whose mother was legally restrained from attending church with him yesterday.

I never trust the press in reporting these stories so I have no idea how much the church and its leadership worked with the family. It does sound like his disruption was pretty extreme (spitting and urinating, threatening elderly and children).

But with the increase in autism in our society, I don't think it's a situation that couldn't happen to any one of our churches.

I can't help but think about the ministry that was started at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas which its pastor, Adam Hamilton, often tells as an example of a church that would do "whatever it took" to reach out to people in their need. They had a family with special needs and they developed a ministry for that individual family and then of course it's grown to include many families in the community. I do know that it's pretty labor-intensive, but as a result love-intensive.

So as clergy or laity, what would you do in a situation like this? What measures would you put into effect? Would that family be welcome at your church?


Monday, May 12, 2008

And so it goes, and so it goes...

So General Conference is over and now we live with what was decided. I've been amazed at people who watched on live streaming since I would think that was very tedious! Others could care less what happened. Always there are some who see some legislation acted upon that makes them wonder whether they can continue to be United Methodist. Yet others perceived some positive changes in spirit and direction of the Church. And so it goes, and so it goes!

I am sure that many of you who watch this blog (or at least respond to it) have some responses to various legislation. Here's a short list, developed from a recent Newscope, to whet your memories:

The General Conference:
Approved a $642 million budget, representing an increased of 1.2% over each of the next 4 years;
Shortened the ordination process;
Changed the term "probationary" to "provisional" member (the status after commissioning);
Established a study group on church structure that would make the US a "regional" conference (like other areas of the world are central conferences now);
Approved full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the only item that made the Star Tribune that I know of--only in Minnesota!);
Rejected language that would state that United Methodists disagree on homosexuality;
Retained language that prohibits UM ministers from conducting homosexual unions as well as rejected proposals that would add "civil unions" to basic civil liberties in the Social Principles;
Opposed homophobia and heterosexism as "forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice or sexual orientation;"
Reported in various ways the vitality of our denomination in this country and around the world;
and added "witness" to our promise of "prayers, presence, gifts and service."

This is hardly a comprehensive list; it's impossible to report all the changes so you may know of some others that matter more to you.

But I would be interested in what your reactions are to any decisions made at General Conference. How do they impact you? How does it make you feel as a United Methodist? How will you live them out?