We Rise or Fall Together - Rev. Anne Robertson

The thing for those Christians outside the UMC to understand about our very ugly and amplified pain is that those who have never had a church affiliation typically don't make distinctions between this church and that. They don't even distinguish between churches and other religious organizations--like, say, Bible Societies. Here's a story.

Earlier this year, the staff member with the MBS cell phone got a call from a young woman who quickly went into a rant about the psychological damage we were doing to people, condemning us for being so hateful and hurtful. The woman kept calling and calling, furious about our behavior, but not picking up when I tried to call her directly. I had no idea what had set her off.

The next day, after she tried showing up at our physical office only to discover it was a UPS store, she actually called me back. Same rant about how much damage we were doing to people with our hate and discrimination and how that wasn't Christian and how Jesus wouldn't do that, etc. There was nothing specific to us that she had seen. She just saw "Massachusetts Bible Society" somewhere online and freaked.

For a full half an hour I interrupted her with variations on the theme of, "I agree with you that those practices should have no place in the church. We don't do that. Other Bible Societies have different policies, but we aren't connected to them. Here in Massachusetts we are LGBTQ-friendly. We don't discriminate in hiring or grants or anything we do. We welcome all and try to help people see the Bible in a more generous light. We support marriage equality and the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the church. We condemn attacks on Muslims and other hate crimes. We condemn White Supremacy and Anti-Semitism. We trust science," etc. I don't know how many times I literally said, "I agree with you that such hate is wrong" before she actually heard me and stopped. Oh. Wait. What? Then she opened up about her own life and when we hung up an hour later she said I was her friend.

When stories about churches or prominent Christians are in the news, most people don't hear "Methodists" did this or "Catholics" did that. They hear, "This is what Christians do." And they toss out any notion of ever being part of either church (any church) or the faith it represents. Every single "bad church" story in the headlines affects every church of every denomination and creed. 59% of millennials raised in the church have already left.

The schism in the UMC will affect your church, no matter the denomination, no matter if you're conservative or progressive. The sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and in the Southern Baptist Convention will affect your church and likely already has. Christians profess that we are one body in Christ. It will take the entire body to heal the disease that is ravaging many of its limbs and organs.

Like with gun violence, "thoughts and prayers" are no longer enough. We must bear witness to God's love with our lives. We must find our way back to being the continuing incarnation of Christ in the world. We will rise or fall together.




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