April 1st, 2016

Before and after the Civil Rights Movement, race issues dominated the social, economic, and political landscape of the USA. The whole world witnessed and still experiences its devastating effects in almost every aspect of life. It caused deep divisions and intense pain and anguish. It disrupted the economy of the nation. As a result of the nationwide violence and social instability that ensued, both victims and perpetrators attempted to justify the reasons for their actions. The whole nation was ripped apart by two colors: black and white.

This division continues to be a reality. We continue to experience the ugliness and unacceptability of racism in the huge numbers of black men and women that populate the prison halls in the USA. We continue to bemoan institutional racism in the still countless numbers of homeless African Americans on the streets of the USA. We continue to live with and accept as “normal” the massive inequalities among white people and black people in institutions of higher learning and the employment market. We continue to witness the indiscriminate extra-judicial killings of people of color, most of whom do not receive the appropriate constitutional justice they deserve. In short, racism is still rife in the USA and in other parts of the world, and its consequences are enormous. We have compelling reasons why the church must rise up once again and muster the spiritual and political strength to eliminate this menace in all its shapes and forms. The struggle to end racism and bring about healing and wholeness is a fight that the global church cannot afford to lose. It’s costly, but the church must remain relentless in this struggle and defeat this evil no matter the cost. To reengage in this struggle is certainly not merely an option but a compelling mandate from a God of love who is eager to see “justice flowing down like waters and righteousness like an overflowing stream.” Our world again needs a Rosa Parks and a Martin Luther King Jr. to protest to the moral and spiritual conscience of the world that racism is evil.

Much like racism, homosexual identity and practice is a single issue that generates excessive animosity in the church. As I take a personal look at our church, I sometimes wonder about God’s presence in the midst of this disagreement. Is our church becoming Ezekiel’s “dry bones” in the valley, dry bones in search of prophets and prophetesses, lay clergy and bishops, to rise up and speak resurrection hope into our lives? Is there any hope of the church ever reviving from this state of disunity and pain? Could this not be the time, perhaps more than any time in our lives, when every United Methodist needs to go down on his or her knees to ask for God’s divine intervention to save the unity of our church?

Our denomination seems gripped by a deep and unfathomable fear of disintegration. From many concerned members of the church, I am asked whether there is any hope for our church coming together again.


My answer is yes.

The Bible tells us that God is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). And I know that God has a plan for God’s people (Jer 29:11), against which the forces of hell on earth can never stand (Matt 16:18).

From church history we recall that homosexual practices are not the only issue over which the church has experienced division. The early church became divided over the issue of circumcision, racism (Jew and Gentile), and spiritual matters (speaking in tongues and prophecy). Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement over John Mark (Acts 15:36-40). In our recent history, the church became divided over the issue of slavery. But the good news is that through all these times and seasons, God carved out a plan and purpose for God’s church—and here we are still alive to see each other’s faces.

By faith I can see from afar that soon the storm will subside, and we’ll begin to sail on calm waters. We will speak in new tongues—tongues of hope, tongues of joy, tongues of spiritual holiness, tongues of great and powerful revivals with biblical truth—to the point that God will move us beyond our present into a future with hope. I believe that what’s ahead of us is more important and more glorious than what we’re now experiencing. As United Methodists, we still have “a story to tell to the nation.” We still have “souls to rescue and souls to save.” I believe that in the midst of our fear, brokenness, and hopelessness, God will breathe his breath upon the church and usher in a new vibrancy across the globe. Yes, I do so believe.


As finite beings, we’re certainly too frail to fight for God. Furthermore, God is so big, so almighty, that God need not fight for God’s self either. We must remember that we’re not weapons for a fight but living tools in God’s hands to bring about transformation in the world. We are Christ’s body called to live out our faith in a world where there’s so much hurt and suffering. There are more important issues that must concern us. There are lives to rescue, hungry people to be fed, sick people to be healed, and a world to bring to Christ. In the midst of our diversity, we can still imagine God’s divine power working to breathe life and hope into our situation. We can trust that God is able to take us over this deep cliff of uncertainty to a future filled with hope.

My grandmother told me a traditional story that I have since read on the internet. I was a twelve-year-old boy growing up in a polygamous family of seven siblings who were born to different mothers. With barely enough to share, we often quarreled and sometimes fought each other for the limited food and other resources available in the home. The quest for survival reached the point when hate began to gradually creep into the family, not only among us siblings but among our mothers who did everything possible to ensure that their children received the best out of the situation.

It was the coldest winter ever. The porcupines decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected­ themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions.

After a while, they decided to distance themselves one from the other, but because of the cold they began to die, alone and frozen. They had to make a choice; either accept the quills of their
companions or disappear from the earth. Wisely, they decided to bear the pain and go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.

The story of the porcupine is a lesson that the church needs to learn.

This article is excerpted from a chapter by the author in Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church (Abingdon Press, 2014).

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