Change in the United Methodist Church
By: Susan Naslund
I recently read a list of 32 things you always believed that simply are not true. Some of the new facts are: "Swimming within an hour of eating doesn't actually lead to cramps or drowning," and "It's not actually harmful to pick up baby birds and return them to their nests, that it will not cause their mothers to reject them."
These statements contradict what my mother taught me when I was a child. The old "facts" are engrained in my mind. I have believed them to be true my whole life. I never stopped to question if they were wrong.
Nevertheless, we cannot reject these new statements just because they are in opposition to what we have always believed. We need to concede that research has been done to confirm these new facts, and we should do our own work to verify the results. We all need to learn that it is okay to question everything -- the news, what our teachers say, even the content of the Bible. For most, new information revealed by scientific inquiry can be mind blowing, yet still relatively easy to eventually accept. But when it comes to religious doctrine, some people think that holding on tightly to what they have always believed is a display of strong faith. For some, changing one's mind indicates weakness.
Changing one's mind is actually an act of strength and courage.
When I was in grade school, I often heard statements about some of my classmates such as, "He is so gay," and "What a queer!" My perception was that people could choose how they behaved so as to be just like everyone else. They did not have to display attributes that would make boys seem effeminate, and girls appear masculine, in stereotypically homosexual ways. I thought a different sexual orientation was a choice. We now know that sexual preference has a genetic component to it, and to be punished for it is morally unthinkable.
For me, the issues regarding homosexuality in the United Methodist Church are serious, merit our attention, and require a change of mind. I believe in full inclusion of all God’s children in community life and ministry and would like to see Foothills identify itself as a Reconciling Congregation. That means we will agree to adopt the statement that, “We welcome all people, regardless of age, race, gender, marital status, physical condition, sexual orientation, ethnic background, or economic situation.” This is a statement that is in opposition to what some have always believed to be true about hospitality in the United Methodist Church, and I understand that it may be hard for many to adapt to this new way of thinking. For them, it will take strength and courage to create space at the table for everyone.
I believe becoming a Reconciling Congregation will be a full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. I pray that all of us will ask questions daily about what we think we know is true, evaluate the evidence, and sometimes have the strength and courage to change our minds.