Feb. 23, 2017
Dear Hyde Park Family,
“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?
May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?
Without all doubt, we may.”
— John Wesley, “On Catholic Spirit”
It is likely no surprise to you that the United Methodist Church has hit an impasse on the question of human sexuality and gender identity. The most recent General Conference last May was as contentious as ever, with the denomination at one point on the precipice of schism.
Saving the church from irreparable division was the proposal for The Commission on a Way Forward, composed of 32 clergy and lay people from around the world and across the theological spectrum. They have been charged with discerning consensus on these important matters, which will ultimately guide the Council of Bishops as they seek to lead the church through this impasse. You can read about the purpose of their work here.
Every Annual Conference has been designated with a week to pray for the Commission as it continues its work over the next several months. We have been asked to pray together as a Florida Conference next week, February 26 to March 4, which times perfectly with the next gathering of the Commission from February 27 to March 2 in Atlanta. It is also quite timely that our week of prayer corresponds with the beginning of Lent next Wednesday.
Regardless of your position on this and any other issue that we face as a church, I invite us all to join in prayer throughout the week. To guide you in that process, I have put together a set of daily exercises, which you might choose to follow.
A GUIDE TO PRAYER FOR THE CHURCH
AND FOR THE COMMISSION ON A WAY FORWARD
FEBRUARY 26 – MARCH 4
Sunday, February 26: Pray for the Church
I have written this prayer which you might pray at some point today and throughout the week, or you can offer your own for the unity of the church and our discernment of God’s Spirit:
- O Holy God,
- You are the source of all life and giver of all good and perfect gifts. Through your Son Jesus Christ, and with your Holy Spirit, you have drawn us together to be your church, to be a witness to the world of your glory, to reflect your love, and to convey your grace. We thank you especially for the United Methodist Church, and its ongoing commitment to both social holiness and vital piety.
- (Pause for silent reflection on the ways in which you are grateful for what the United Methodist Church has meant in your life.)
- We remember that your desire is for us to be in relationships with one another that are life giving and soul renewing. Yet, we have allowed our kinship to other believers to be defined more by our differences than by our commonalities. Forgive us for binary thinking, conditioned in us by a culture beset by winners and losers. Show us the way of love, which is the only way that saves and the only basis for relationships in your kingdom. (Pause for silent reflection on your relationships with others in the church with whom you disagree.)
- We pray for your church. We pray for those who have been marginalized by Christians on the basis of their sexual orientation. We pray for a return to Biblical literacy as a standard for discipleship. We pray for a renewal of the church’s witness, that it may not be governed by culture, but a transformer of it. We pray for the people called Methodist, that as your Spirit guides each of us toward perfection in love, we might move closer to holiness in heart and life. (Pause for silent prayer for the United Methodist Church, for gay and lesbian persons and for the strengthening of your own discipleship.)
- Over this upcoming week, illuminate my heart through prayer, and guide me in praying for The Commission on a Way Forward. And show me how I might make your love real in ways both significant and small, for the sake of your kingdom.
Monday, February 27: Scripture Reflection
Read Galatians 1-3. This is the text that the Commission will be studying together at the outset of its gathering next week, and we have all been invited to read and reflect on it as well. As you read it today, consider the connections you might make between this epistle and our world today. What do you think is Paul’s central message to the Galatian church? In what ways does the division within that church echo that in our denomination? What is Paul’s remedy for such division?
In particular, reflect on these words. You might even choose to commit them to memory for this week:
You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
Tuesday, February 28: Pray for this Local Church
Read the following Chinese prayer called “For Unity of Christ’s Body,” from No. 564 of our Hymnal:
- “Help each of us, gracious God,
to live in such magnanimity and restraint
that the Head of the church may never have cause
to say to any one of us,
‘This is my body, broken by you.’ Amen”
Offer a prayer for this local church, Hyde Park United Methodist. Pray that all people, including LGBTQ persons, might have a warm-hearted, open-minded experience of God’s love in this congregation.
Wednesday, March 1: Ash Wednesday
Attend one of our three Ash Wednesday services: 12:15 p.m. at The Portico campus, 12:15 p.m. in the Chapel of the Hyde Park Campus, or 6:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary. During that time of somber reflection and penitence, take time to confess ways that you have contributed to unhealthy divisions of any kind in your relationships, in the community, and in the country.
Thursday, March 2: Fast
This is one of the most prevalent but underutilized spiritual disciplines in the church. Fasting is the temporary suspension of some regular physical experience, in order to renew one’s spiritual focus. You might choose to fast from eating from dusk to dawn today. Or you may choose to fast from some other activity, like watching television or going on the internet. You might even choose a 24-hour fast, from noon today until noon tomorrow. Whatever format you choose, use the time to intentionally center your focus on God’s voice. Listen for what God reveals to you about the nature and mission of the church, and the role God is calling you to play in it.
Friday, March 3: Pray for the Commission
Spend some time praying for the members of the Commission by name, including our own Bishop Ken Carter, who is one of the moderators. Pray for their wisdom and discernment. Pray for the building of relationships among them which are forged by a mutual love for the church and are nurtured by their trust in each other. Pray that their conduct might model the kind of holy conversation that all local churches might follow in discussing polarizing issues. Pray for an openness to new possibilities, and a hope for the future:
Jorge Acevedo; Brian Adkins; Jacques Umembudi Akasa; Tom Berlin; Matt Berryman; Helen Cunanan; David Field; Peter Torio; Grant Hagiya; Aka Dago-Akribi Hortense; Scott Johnson; Jessica LaGrone; Thomas Lambrecht; MyungRae Kim Lee; Julie Hager Love; Mazvita Machinga; Patricia Miller; Mande Guy Muyombo; Eben Nhiwatiwa; Dave Nuckols; Casey Langley Orr; Gregory Palmer; Donna Pritchard; Tom Salsgiver; Robert Schnase; Jasmine Rose Smothers; Leah Taylor; Debra Wallace-Padgett; Rosemarie Wenner; Alice Williams; John Wesley Yohanna; Alfiado S. Zunguza
Moderators: Bishops Ken Carter, Sandra Steiner Ball, and David Yemba.
Saturday, March 4: Personal Prayer
Take time today to offer a prayer that names your own personal connections to the matters that the Commission will be discussing. Pray for the gay and lesbian persons that you know in your life. Pray for those you know with whom you disagree, either in this matter or any other issue the church is facing. Pray for God to reveal ways that you can be proactive in resolving differences, in advocating for justice, and in bringing healing to others.
Conclude the week with the reading (or even the singing) of this hymn:
- “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”
I love thy kingdom, Lord,
the house of thine abode,
the church our blest Redeemer saved
with his own precious blood.
I love thy church, O God.
Her walls before thee stand,
dear as the apple of thine eye,
and graven on thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall;
for her my prayers ascend;
to her my cares and toils be given,
till toils and cares shall end.
Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways:
her sweet communion, solemn vows,
her hymns of love and praise.
Sure as thy truth shall last,
to Zion shall be given
the brightest glories earth can yield,
and brighter bliss of heaven.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist