I can’t tell you the exact moment in time when I was told by my mom and dad that they were getting a divorce. Probably because that talk never actually happened. That would’ve been too healthy and too undysfunctional a conversation for my folks to have with their 3rd grade son.
But while I don’t recall when I first found out that my parents were parting ways, I do recall how it felt - to learn that the very people whom I loved more than anyone else in all the world had decided that they just couldn’t bear to live together in the same house anymore...
Tragically, that same stomach-sickening feeling revisited me this week at the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. At an early morning delegation meeting on Tuesday, we were informed that, according to social media, folks on the left and folks on the right of the theological spectrum in our denomination were getting a divorce.
Like my bio family one half-century earlier, no “official” separation announcement was made. That would’ve been too healthy and too undysfunctional a conversation for my church family to have. Nevertheless, the message of marital discord was loud and clear.
The very people whom I loved most in the world had decided that they just couldn’t bear to live together in the same house of Wesley anymore.
Ironically, what attracted me to the Methodists in the first place was that my church family offered me things that my immediate family did not – safety, peace, stability, grace, affirmation, and unconditional love. Every Sunday, they threw a great big “Come As You Are” party, and I was their guest of honor!
Whenever I showed up at these Sabbath celebrations, the local servant leaders would go out of their way to bring me a robe – the best one - a ring, a pair of sandals, and a fatted calf roasted to perfection.
Was the party over?
Was the Methodist marriage over? Was dissolution now the solution? Would I once again have to pick which one of my loved ones I would live with?
Sadly, from the 4th grade on, I spent every single birthday of my childhood wishing that my parents would get back together. Alas, any such hope was extinguished about as quickly as the candle on my birthday cake.
Having learned my lesson, I decided that I would not simply WISH that my church family would remain intact. This time, I would PRAY.
So, fervently, ardently, and without ceasing I prayed. I prayed for a peace which passeth all understanding. I prayed for unity, not unanimity. I prayed for
- the folks on the right,
- and the folks on the left,
- and the folks in the middle to stick together - for better AND for worse, in good times AND in bad, in sickness AND in health.
After all, “A threefold cord is not easily broken.” (Ecc 4:12)
Well, by some modern Methodist miracle, my (and a bunch of other folks’) prayers were answered the very next day. A motion was made, and seconded, and discussed. And discussed. And then discussed some more.
In the end, we decided as a family to get some counseling over the next few years to see if we can’t find a way to peace this thing together. In the meantime, my sisters and brothers, we remain The UNITED Methodist Church - called by Jesus and equipped by the Holy Spirit to make disciples for the transformation of the world.