Saturday, September 14
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacriﬁce, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
As we talk about change in the church, it should be remembered there is a diﬀerence between change and transformation. Although there are not hard and fast deﬁnitions for these words, we intuitively know that just because a committee approves a new policy doesn’t mean the individuals aﬀected by that change will embrace, implement, or believe in it.
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed slaves living in the United States, but African Americans STILL face enormous institutional and cultural racism. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal, but we know that bigotry and inequality are still realities. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disability, but we know not every public building is accessible.
The same tension between change and transformation is found in the church. The Methodist Church (before the “United” was added) granted women full clergy rights and ordination in 1956, but many UMC members leave their congregations when a women is appointed as their pastor.
In this sense, “change” denotes an external shift — a policy, law, or decision. “Transformation” is very diﬀerent. We are transformed when we embrace a new reality internally so that our desires and actions adjust in relation to the new idea.
Church history shows us that many changes took generations to be accepted and internalized. The Roman Catholic Church now accepts and embodies almost everything the Protestant Reformation sought to achieve! One major force in this normalization process is the shift that naturally occurs from one generation to the next. Every generation perceives the world in a diﬀerent way than their parents and acts in ways that diﬀer from their grandparents.
In our own time, generational diﬀerences are also impacting the LGBTQ conversation within the UMC. A 2017 Harris Poll of 2,037 adults found that among non-LGBTQ people, Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) were the most likely group to be LGBTQ allies. The study 1 counted people as allies if they reported being very or somewhat comfortable with LGBTQ people in all situations. The ﬁgure was 63% for Millennials, 53% of Gen Xers (1969-1980) 51% percent of Baby Boomers (1944-1968), and 39% percent of Elders (pre-1944).
Even John Wesley understood this concept. He said, “what one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.”
These statistical diﬀerences highlight the tensions already found within our church community. One other statistic is signiﬁcant in this conversation: Buzzfeed.comrecently reported that 41% of the LGBTQ community label themselves as Christian. If the church’s mission is to reach out 2 into the world around us, initiate relationships, and invite people to join us in following Jesus as
Lord, the clash of these cultures is inevitable. But, as we learned in our “unity without uniformity” section, we must not let that “clash” lessen our commitment to our mission to reach out with the love of Jesus Christ.
Human beings always resist change, but we can never be satisﬁed with “change without transformation” in the church. Our FUMCOR Welcoming Statement reads as follows:
At First Church, we embrace Jesus’ message that God loves and accepts every person. Therefore, we welcome all to share in the life and ministry of this community of faith. Our welcome knows no boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, economic condition, physical ability or mental ability.
It is not enough for us to have passed this statement. We must strive to be transformed into a people for whom this statement is a reality internally and externally.
• When have you been part of an organization that made oﬃcial changes that were not implemented?
• Why is change hard? Why is transformation hard?
• Did the statistics on LGBTQ allies surprise you? Do you think younger folks are generally more or less accepting of the LGBTQ community?
• What steps might our congregation do to live more into our Welcoming Statement?
• What prevents you from living into our Welcoming Statement? Where is God in this conversation for you?