Which Side Are You On?

The United Methodist Church (UMC) met last week in General Conference. General Conference is made up of delegates from around the world. When they are in session, General Conference is the “head” of UMC. There is no one person in charge of UMC.

They were meeting to consider the denomination’s position on same gender marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy. You can read Adam Hamilton’s summary and Michael Brown’s summary.

There are two sides to the debate. This took me back to a post I originally published on June 30, 2015. What follows is part of the original post with a few revisions:

If I told you two people were killed for their religious beliefs, where would you guess this took place? You would likely guess somewhere in the Middle East and not here on our own soil.

Do you know what happened on October 27, 1659?

William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson, two Quakers who came from England in 1656 to escape religious persecution, are executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their religious beliefs. The two had violated a law passed by the Massachusetts General Court the year before, banning Quakers from the colony under penalty of death. (From www.history.com)

Do you know the Quakers?

The Society of Friends, or Quakers, began at the tail end of Europe’s Protestant Reformation in the 17th century. The missionary efforts of the earliest Friends took them to North America, where they became heavily involved in Pennsylvania politics before reversing their views on government participation in the mid-1750s. The Society became the first organization in history to ban slaveholding, and in the 1800s Quakers populated the abolitionist movement in numbers far exceeding their proportion of all Americans. (From www.history.com)

I realize this example is likely taking the current debate too far. Thankfully no one is talking about killing anyone.

Here is where I think this post gets tricky – or at least I hope that is the case. Go back and reread what happened to the two Quakers. This time picture yourself on the side of the Massachusetts General Court. Go ahead. Try it.

Did anyone really take the position first where you saw yourself as the persecutor? No. I did not think so. If you feel as though you are being persecuted, try asking yourself in what ways you might be the one persecuting.

We are living in a time where there seems to “always” be two sides – only two. When one side does not agree with our view, we on the “other side” do not like them. They quickly become the group against us. Well, let us remind ourselves, we quickly also become the group against them.

I hope and pray we do not see anything like the persecution experienced in this country long ago. A part of me says we are not anywhere close to that, while another part of me says it is not as big of a step as we think.

Blessings, Pastor Matt

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