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Join us at the Clergy Retreat!

The church is engulfed in what seems like endless chaos these days, have you noticed? With every scandal and denominational schism, every mind-numbing Pat Robertson sound bite and every post from PasterSneakers IG account, association with faith, religion and spirituality is under warranted scrutiny. Church leaders are under increased pressure to not just lead their congregations, but embody an obligation of being above reproach in the eyes of a watching world that has shifting expectations. If you’ve been in “professional ministry” any length of time, you’re likely experiencing the present disruption in a variety of ways. Perhaps you’re energized by what feels like an awakening of the burgeoning potential of the Body of Christ. Or maybe you’re more cynical and finding it difficult to find any signs of light at the end of an increasingly dim tunnel. Likely you’ve had moments of questioning your own complicity in what is rapidly being revealed to be a largely toxic system that spans the globe and has permeated every industry on the planet.

Since October 2017 we’ve been interfacing with hundreds of church leaders from around the world, in response to co-founding Church Clarity. It’s been an eye opening 18 months as demands for clarity throughout the church have caused a bit of a stir. The response from pastors and clergy, when it comes to the work we’re championing, has raised some fascinating questions and sparked illuminating discussions about the state of the church, the future of the church and the nature of ministry in general. We’re excited to co-lead a session for clergy at this summer’s retreat hosted by QCF. Together, we’ll explore some of the most urgent issues facing christianity and what Clarity looks like personally, organizationally, and institutionally. We believe that all healthy individuals and organizations must begin from a place of clarity — by looking at oneself in the mirror and being honest about what you see.

We don’t have all the answers in terms of what you can expect, simply because the implications of clarity and its impact on the future of the church is wide open. What we know is that technology is accelerating the exposure of harmful ambiguity throughout the church. Clarity is empowering pastors who are not afraid to express their convictions in ways that were previously unavailable. We want to explore this further by sharing some of what we’ve learned as well as hear directly from those of you who are currently on the frontlines of this ever shifting landscape.

We want to spend the majority of our time together exploring themes of how you as a church leader can utilize the tool of clarity to help shape the future of the church.

Whoever you are and whichever church you are connected to, we hope you’ll join us this Summer in Florida. See you there!

George Mekhail & Sarah Ngu
Co-Founders of Church Clarity

To those who are contemplating leaving the United Methodist Church

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I write this letter with an aching heart. I have heard the pain in the voices of so many of you, wondering if it is time to “shake the dust off” and leave your local church. As your bishop, I cannot ask you to stay in a place where your soul cannot be at rest. However, I will share with you why I, as a lifelong member of the UMC and as a lesbian, choose to stay.

I stay because I know that the actions of General Conference are not a reflection of the church that has raised me, enveloped me in God’s grace, nurtured my walk of faith as a disciple of Jesus, and encouraged my call. Most United Methodists in the United States are appalled at the turn our denomination has taken. For them and for me, it is an affront to the very ethos of Methodism itself. We are not biblical literalists, as this vote implies. Nor are we a tradition grounded in rules and punishment. We United Methodists have always been about grace, grace and more grace. I am staying because I want to reclaim the best of our tradition for the generations that come after me.

When The United Methodist Church was formed and its Social Principle written, the 1972 General Conference turned a pastoral paragraph regarding the reality that lgbtq persons were in our pulpits and pews into one of condemnation when it added, “However we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider it incompatible with Christian teaching.” This one sentence has enabled more and more condemning stances to be included in our Book of Discipline (like the fact that no same-gender weddings may be held in our churches or performed by our pastors). So there are some of us who have been living with the church’s rejection for a long time! Yet, we continue to be called to this church. Within our local churches there is commitment to welcome and care for every child of God. I stay so our churches can provide deeper care and greater witness to those feeling the sting of judgement and rejection.

I stay because of our young people. Last Sunday, I worshipped at St. Andrew and was asked by Pastor Mark Feldmeir to come lead communion. Robin, my spouse, and I stood with bread and cup and offered the elements to those who came to receive. All the youth stood in line to receive from us. Many were sobbing. How could the church that had taught them about God’s love for them suddenly make this love conditional? Many collapsed in my arms in tears, their hearts breaking. I stay so that our young people will inherit a church where every child is beloved, where no one is turned away, where Christ’s table is wide enough for everyone.

I stay because there is no place else for me to go. Our United Methodist way of living our faith in practical ways is found in no other denomination. We are the people who embrace Wesley’s understanding of personal piety and social holiness. I want our churches to give witness to this even more boldly.

I stay because since the decision, I am seeing United Methodist Churches across our connection saying “NO”! They will not allow a vote at General Conference to derail their ministries or commitments to love all people. The Holy Spirit is up to something. I want to be a part of it, and I hope you do to.

Please feel free to contact me at bishop@mtnskyumc.org if you would like to discuss this with me further. I am happy to pray with you as you discern where God is calling you.

Blessings,

Bishop Karen

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