Last post I staked out space squarely but somewhat vaguely in the middle of the road. I was thinking and praying and preparing for the first meeting of The United Methodist Centrist Movement (http://umcm.today). For those of you not United Methodist Christians you might not find the link all that interesting. If you are United Methodist I hope you will give it a read and prayerfully consider if it resonates with you as it does with me. I found the event that my earlier post anticipated a day that brought me hope and a renewed optimism about what might be.
In the debate underway in my tribe words like “split” and “schism” are tossed about quite freely. Many of the proposals for The United Methodist Church’s future have some element of schism at their core. This schismatic element ranges from outright divorce to de facto separation while remaining in the same house (but sleeping in separate bedrooms). Most see no other possibility and assume some separation is both inevitable and necessary.
We may have missed the rather startling news that the schism of 1054 (when Eastern and Western Christianity formally and finally split) is under attack. Specifically, Pope Francis and his Eastern Orthodox counterpart have begun healing this split (http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/30/world/europe/turkey-pope-visit/). Can you imagine? A nearly 1,000 year-old division of the Christian church might be in the beginning stages of healing? The journey from where each side now resides to the kind of unity expressed in the news coverage is long and fraught with risk. But the commitment to unity and to a different future seems real enough.
What leaves me hopeful is that if the Holy Spirit can blow into that rift with its long history perhaps God can also bring something different, something new into my United Methodist Church? If a given in the church world can be undermined so radically what else might be possible? I keep returning to David Watson’s post on November 9 about the need to take seriously the call to prayer for our denomination. We are fond of quoting Jesus who said in Luke’s Gospel: “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27 NIV)
I hope we don’t require a 1,000 year split to learn about God’s possibilities in the face of overwhelming and seemingly insurmountable barriers to a different future.