Listening as spiritual practice

October 4th, 2017

I just might be wrong in my understanding of God & Scripture.

I believe in resurrection after death (even of institutions like the Church).

I lean towards cynicism far too easily (I need hope to pull me along).

These are the THREE reasons I joined the Uniting Methodist Movement, a middle way in the United Methodist Church. I have many friends who have joined other networks — Confessing, Reconciling, Wesleyan Covenant Association. I never found a place to pitch my tent of faith and doubt, skepticism and hope as it relates to the ministry and future of the UMC.

Then I met with fifty other clergy from across the US in May 2017. We prayed, laughed, cried, debated, wrestled, listened and dreamed.

What has come out of the initial gathering is a desire for a movement to re-imagine what it means to be United Methodist. The current disagreements related to same gender marriage and the ordination of LGBTQI persons should not separate our denomination. But it also doesn't mean I believe things should stay as they are.

Many have heard now about the affirmations of Uniting Methodists and wonder if this is the same centrist movement advocating for a local option. Sure, there are some in the group who continue to lead in a thoughtful way towards that structural way forward. Personally, I am not in favor of the local option and that's the beauty of the movement. We don't all agree, but we have made a promise to listen and dialogue. I have joined the movement as one way to be faithful and prayerful as the Commission on a Way Forward pursues its charge of denominational structure and polity.

What does unity mean to me? Prayer and listening to one another with curiosity and empathy. As a spiritual practice, I can listen to those with whom I am still in connection under the ministry of the UMC. I can lead as a pastor with integrity knowing that the congregation I serve is not of one voice or opinion. I can wrestle in the spiritual tension of what is and what is to come. Sure, listening may not seem like it will do much to change the current divisive dialogue. But I'm willing to lean in and listen with my heart, mind, soul and strength.

Below are some suggestions for listening to one another as our denomination prayerfully discerns the way forward. Imagine the seeds of hope and compassion that could be planted if we modeled for one another what conversation and spiritual listening looks like. The practice of curiosity about another's journey or view of scripture stands in contrast to the political environment of debate. Empathy fosters vulnerability and stands against competition and power. What I've offered are merely suggestions, adapted from spiritual exercises over the years.


  • Tell me your call to ministry (lay or ordained).
  • What originally drew you to the United Methodist Church?


  • What is at the core of your conviction for your belief on the future of the UMC?
  • What personal experience of unity in the midst of conflict have you seen in your local church? What helped foster unity?


  • How can I pray for you, your family and your local church?
  • Pray the Wesleyan covenant prayer:

    "I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.  Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen."
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