Three Opportunities for Grace at the Special General Conference
February 21, 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
One of e. e. cummings’ poems includes the phrase “even if it’s sunday may i be wrong.” It suggests the humility present in the Christian walk, where being “right” is not always paramount. Rather, we are to look outside of ourselves, to our greater God, and consider that we may be wrong. It is with this love and humility that I ask you to reflect on three opportunities for grace as we enter the special General Conference.
- Grace to listen deeply to God and each other.
We are clearly one body with different opinions about the topic at hand. We speak about our positions passionately and with abundant enthusiasm. Yet, we may be more powerful in this moment by being quiet, contemplative, prayerful – and listening to “the still small voice of God.” Articulating one’s opinions in angry or loud tones is certainly off-putting and may work counter to one’s agenda. Alternatively, listening intently and considering the opposing viewpoint might lead to a profound outcome.
Judgment has no place at this table, because God is in this moment. God loves each one of us, regardless of our positions on the matters at hand, regardless of whether we are “right” or “wrong.” We are, therefore, called to approach each other in this same manner: leading with love.
- Grace to be responsible and respond accordingly.
As Christians, we are recipients of God’s unearned grace. Randy Maddox, in his book “Responsible Grace: John Wesley’s Practical Theology,” speaks of God’s grace as carrying an obligation to respond in the fullness of the grace bestowed on us. Through grace, God is connecting us together to spread the gospel to the world.
God expects us to act in this moment with responsible grace: to the decisions before us and to each other.
- Grace to lead the church through this divisive discussion.
In their book “Grace to Lead: Practicing Leadership in the Wesleyan Tradition” (published by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry), Kenneth L. Carder and Laceye C. Warner present a concept of principled, Christian leadership:
“Christian leadership is defined, formed, and shaped by, as well as rooted and deployed in accordance with, who God is, where God is, what God is doing, and what God would have individuals and communities be and do. Leadership in the Christian community is a sharing in the life and mission of the triune God, which means that it begins, continues, and ends in communion with, obedience to, and praise of the God we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Such leadership is much more than institutional direction and management.”
At this pivotal moment in our history, we must follow the leading on love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NRSV): “[Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.” While exceedingly hard, it is not impossible to stretch hands across the aisle, so to speak, and come together in love and humility.
I’ll conclude with another quote from e. e. cummings: “now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened.” My prayer for all United Methodists, at this critical time in our history, is to lead with ears awakened and eyes opened. Our future depends on it.
Rev. Dr. Kim Cape
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
The United Methodist Church