Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell Speaks For Inclusiveness

November 11, 2011
Kermit the frog said, “It’s not easy being green”. I am sure that there are United Methodist Bishops who today would say, “It’s not easy being a United
Methodist Bishop”. Rather than condemning (or praising) The Council of Bishops statement in response to “…a group of clergy who have declared they would perform holy unions in opposition to the Book of Discipline”, I offer this paraphrase of a portion of their statement, remembering the racial struggles of our denomination. 
Although different, they may be instructive as United Methodism must, and I believe will, respond to the current language and legislation in our Book of Discipline. I am not sure all of us understand the “deep pain” that our Book of Discipline language and legislation is causing same gender loving clergy who are open about their commitment, and those of us who support them. I have substituted (highlighted) words that remember the tragedy of our racial history, with the hope that this will help us understand the similarities between segregation/exclusion of persons today because of their same sex commtments, and of persons because of their race, in the past.

“One of the deep disagreements and divisions within the church is over (the practice of racial integration recently highlighted by a
group of white and black clergy who have declared
they will attend racially segregated white churches in opposition
to the racially segregated policies and practices of those churches).
  This has caused different experiences of deep pain throughout the church. As the bishops of the Church, we commit ourselves to be in prayer for the whole church and for the brokeness our communities experience.”

The above is a paraphrased quotation of a portion of the letter from The Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church. It was written, remembering that on Easter Sunday of 1964, Bishop Charles Golden who was black, and Bishop James Mathews who was white, sought to attend the morning
service of Galloway Memorial Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. They were turned away because the
Church had a Policy Statement that
declared their Church was “white only”.

It is difficult to remember and admit that once our denomination in its language and legislation and in the racial segregation it created and allowed, believed that, “The practice of racial integration was incompatible with Christian teaching.”

I beleve that our denominational history has prepared us to respond positively to the ministry opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. We once supported and enforced prohibitions against the consumption of alchohol, divorce of clergy, etc.

But, in time, we acknowledged that for a denomination to attempt to be in minisry with its “head in the sand”, diminishes and demeans the unique
significance of ministry in
the Methodist tradition. I had wished that The United Methodist Church might have taken leadership in providing the ministry of marriages and unions to same sex couples in those places where they are legal.  And, affirmed the same gender loving clergy who have been among us presently and historically, in local churches, as District Superintendents and as Bishops.

But, our sisters and brothers in other Communions have done this while we convey the impression that if our denomination did this, the foundation
of our United Methodist faith would crumble. Our faith
foundation is not that fragile! If this were so, we would not have survived the changes that we have made.

Years ago, the late, Reverend Doctor Ernest Smith provided Black Methodists for Church Renewal with our slogan; “OUR TIME UNDER GOD
IS NOW.”

I believe The Council of Bishops believes, and hopefully most of the delegates to the 2012 General Conference believe, a fresh and faith-grounded approach to language and legislation that first sufaced in 1972, must be reviewed and transformed.

The little boy who heard his parents talk at the dinner table, day after day, about the awful state of the world, sought to participate by saying, “The world must be in a mell of a hess”. The world is, and we squander the gifts God has given The United Methodist Church, as we act as though we believe that same sex couples and complete ministry to and with them, are responsible for the economic, health, violence and war issues that affect all of humankind.

We know this is not true, and we must dare say so!  United Methodist Church, “OUR TIME UNDER GOD IS NOW”.

May we, with God’s guidance and help, live in the present, as we shape the future.

Gilbert H. Caldwell

Retired Elder,
Rocky Mountain Conference
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Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell Speaks For Inclusiveness

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