May 29, 2016
Luke 7:1-10
Galatians 1:1-12
1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29)...
Psalm 96

On the Other Hand
Proper 4 | OT 9

Go here for the full installment.

Dean Feldmeyer
In this week’s lectionary reading from the Hebrew scriptures, a clearly frustrated Elijah pleads with the Israelites to rededicate themselves to God rather than continuing to navigate a middle course that also accommodated false deities into their religious practice. Determined to bring matters to a head, he decides to demonstrate the impotence of these gods by provoking a faceoff with the prophets of Baal and calling upon the awesome power of the Lord in a way that will convince the people of God’s provenance. In the next installment of The Immediate Word, team member Dean Feldmeyer suggests that Elijah’s sentiments might seem familiar to United Methodists -- who at their General Conference last week were just the most recent denomination to struggle with thorny issues of human sexuality. Amid rumors of impending schism, the battle lines were drawn and positions hardened on these matters (especially homosexuality) -- leading the president of the bishops’ council to publicly acknowledge the deep divisions, citing the denomination’s “brokenness” that “surrounds or emanates from matters of human sexuality, interpretation of scripture, how we include our LGBT brothers and sisters.” Complicating the debate is that each side feels their position is grounded in moral and scriptural integrity -- to the point that it seems reminiscent of the divide between the followers of Baal and God. As a result, our church leaders are tasked with somehow discovering a way to maintain Christian unity despite the acrimonious debate. So absent a clear demonstration of God’s power (a la Elijah), how can this be done? As Dean notes, for now the situation remains muddled -- much as it was for Elijah. Yet this week’s gospel text may offer a way forward, since Jesus sees faith in a Roman centurion -- someone who under normal circumstances would likely be rejected as a representative of an (ungodly) occupying force. Here’s a preview:    


On the Other Hand
by Dean Feldmeyer
1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29) 30-39; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10

“How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” Elijah asks the People of God. If YHWH is God, follow YHWH. If Baal is God, follow Baal. For crying out loud, just decide.

But the Israelites “did not answer him a word.”

Last week, the United Methodists weren’t so reticent. They did answer Elijah’s burning question “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?”

Answer: Oh, about four years.

At the General Conference meeting from May 10 to May 20, 865 elected delegates from United Methodist conferences around the world were given the authority to make decisions on behalf of the whole church. But faced with the question of whether or not to allow LGBTQ people full inclusion in the life of the church and risk a schism in the denomination, they decided not to decide. To use a painfully mixed metaphor, they both passed the buck and kicked the can another four years down the road.

They instructed the College of Bishops to appoint yet another study committee to study all of the language in the Book of Discipline that has to do with human sexuality and to make suggestions about what to do with it by 2018. Then the bishops will study those suggestions for two years and bring their own suggestions to the next General Conference in 2020.

Faced with heavy consequences whatever course they decided on, the delegates became like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, whose inner dialogue bounces almost endlessly between observations “on the other hand.” Afraid to act, the delegates to the General Conference left the denomination to flounder for four years while they examine what’s “on the other hand.”

Go here for the full installment.

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Immediate Word Team
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George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating

Robin Lostetter