I've recently been emailing with Keith Taylor, an insightful and thoughtful commenter on this and other blogs, about the church, the Holy Spirit, and what we do now in light of everything that's been going on with judicial council decisions and the division in the church those decision represent.
Keith wrote to me, "When I read the journal of John Wesley, I see the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, the gifts of the Spirit, the Power of God that appears to be missing in the modern UMC. As a UM pastor, why do you think that is so? . . . I wonder where is the Power of the Holy Spirit in the Methodist Renewal Movement of 200+ years ago?"
Good questions. I responded, in part (slightly edited), like this:
"I guess I think we don't see things because we don't (in general) expect to see them, if that makes sense. Sometimes people in my Bible study ask why we don't experience God in such ways as in a "burning bush" like they did in the scriptures. I say that I think it is because God tries to speak to us in ways we're likely to hear God. If we heard a bush talking to us today, we'd probably check ourselves into a hospital. We're not open to seeing God there. But people in biblical times were open to different things because of their knowledge of the natural world being different than ours - the natural world seemed more mysterious, and so perhaps (seemed) more of a place for God to be at work. So, I think maybe we just don't expect the movement of the Holy Spirit anymore, at least not in the same ways, which is often to our detriment. If the Holy Spirit did move among us in bold ways, I wonder if we (liberals, conservatives, whoever) would disagree with the Holy Spirit and try to quash it anyway. (that's my cynicism revealing itself) I, too, think the division in the church is pretty sad - we're all losing out here. I wish I knew how we could work through things."
I'm still struggling with how we can move forward as a church, a denomination together, if that's what we want to do. Can we really live together, and how do we do it?
I think relationship-building is really important. Revwilly commented on my previous post: "We have a major trust issue in the UMC. A relationship cannot survive wihout trust," and then, "Several years ago a study was done an about 1500 people. Each was given a test to determine he/she was a high trust or low trust person. The low trust people had a significantly higher rate of heart disease and died at a much young age. The heart of the UMC is diseased and unless something is done we will die before our time."
I think he is right - we've got some major trust issues. We've become a low trust church. How do we build trust? I think the first step is to decide whether or not we want to build trust with each other.
(PS - Thanks to all of you who've been signing my Map.)