I have deep love and respect for the United Methodist Church. After all, it is within the UMC that I served in ministry for over a decade as a local pastor. But much more than that, it is also the place that I was formed as a person of faith and met some of the most deeply spiritual people in my life.
So when the UMC entered the mainstream news cycle through the decisions made at General Conference 2019, I found myself refreshing my various news feeds to find the latest updates and opinion pieces. Even while doing it I felt a little odd about it. After all, I had not only “retired” from the ministry at the end of June 2018, but I had also removed my membership to the church and hadn’t attended a worship service in months.
But I still felt sad.
In many ways, I feel that my spiritual path has led me away from the teachings of the United Methodist Church. I have been accused of being a universalist – which is not exactly true but I certainly don’t mind being “accused” of such a wondrous thing as thinking that we all ultimately end up saved in the end. In fact, my theolgy can more flippantly be summed by the phrase “Let Go and Let God” with a heavy emphasis on the letting go part.
For this reason and many more, I decided that being a pastor and teacher in the United Methodist tradition would be disingenuous to the people in my care. I could inadvertently lead them away from the Wesleyan theology present within the greater UMC. And at the same time, I could not be genuinely reflective from the pulpit and authentic to my own spiritual journey if I did not pursue the ideas that I was contemplating.
Once that decision was made, the decision to leave the church as a whole was an easy one to make. If my ideas and understanding of the Sacred in my own life could not be taught from a UMC pulpit, then is also couldn’t be shaped by someone that stood in one. Leaving the pulpit was a difficult decision, but leaving the UMC as a whole was painful.
But I took comfort in the thought that the church would still be there for me if I ever felt like going back. Now, I’m pretty sure it won’t be – – – and certainly not in any way that I would recognize.
So I do feel a small sense of loss. After all, the UMC is the place that comforted me in some serious dark spots in my life. I’ve given a lot of myself and my resources to its ministries. I have eaten countless meals, served on numerous commitees, attended endless meetings, and worshipped so many times at so many altars.
I may share more of my story over the next weeks and months – especially as the UMC gets closer to GC2020. But suffice for now that I am sad for those that are going through this directly.