Finding hope in The UMC

Faultlines is a collection of resources intended to inform conversations around human sexuality within the United Methodist Church as the denomination prepares for the 2019 General Conference. The collection represents diverse perspectives and attempts to fill knowledge gaps around the debate, biblical foundations, theological arguments and the impact on The United Methodist Church and her people. Visit for more information. The following is an excerpt from the Introduction to The Marks of Hope: Where the Spirit Is Moving in a Wounded Church by Matt Rawle, Juan Huertas and Katie McKay-Simpson.

So what does it mean to find hope in The United Methodist Church today? To be honest, I don’t have much of an answer to what the future global structure of The UMC needs to be. What I do know is that every day I’m charged with loving, serving, challenging, and leading the folks who have found a home in my local church and those who don’t yet know God’s amazing grace in Jesus Christ. You will find lots of different perspectives in the Faultlines series that will surely foster deep and meaningful conversation as The UMC meanders through the wilderness of tension and division.

"The Marks of Hope: Where the Spirit is Moving in a Wounded Church" (Abingdon Press, 2018)

In The Marks of Hope, our perspective comes from being knee-deep in ministry in a local church not of one mind. We teach, preach, counsel, and plan in the midst of good Christian women and men who do not agree, and yet our churches are growing with new disciples, fostering relationships with the poor and neglected, cultivating a place of trust for holy conversations, and creating an environment where we do our best to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

With a wide-angle lens United Methodist headlines contains words like, division, death tsunami, and WCA vs. RMN. Amazingly, people keep showing up to worship, small groups, and disaster relief missions. Our people are certainly engaged in the debate, and they have definitive ideas of who God is calling them to be. We three pastors are members of the General Conference delegation of our conference, so we are keenly aware of big-picture Methodism, but something miraculous happens when you shake a hand at the sanctuary doors, sit next to a brother in a covenant group, and pick up a hammer with a sister at a work site. Our commitment to doing the work of building God’s kingdom in the person of Jesus seems to supersede commissions, conferences, and judicial rulings. Of course, church would be perfect if it weren’t for all the people in it, but when we trade our wide-angle for a zoom lens, these fissures and cracks are held together by real people in a real community trying to cultivate the mustard seed of faith God has graciously offered.

Maybe this is where we find our hope in The United Methodist Church? It’s like the time our mission committee debated on whether we should be dedicated to local or global mission. Maybe you’ve had a similar discussion? We debated cost, effectiveness, and calling. Like the prodigal son who “came to himself,” we realized that all mission is local, but it’s not always here. All of our churches are local. They just aren’t in the same place. This book isn’t about structure, local options, contextual disciplines, or commission reports; rather, we want to share the hope we already see in the day-to-day comings and goings of the people called United Methodists.

Story, justice, social entrepreneurship, technology, mission, and leadership are where we see hope in The UMC today and where we know we will see it tomorrow. Regardless of how we categorize our work moving forward, we will still have a story to tell. Justice will continue to be the heartbeat of our prophetic witness. Our partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits will extend our understanding of what it means to follow Christ.

Technology advances how we communicate and connect people to Christ and each other. Mission will always keep our idle hands busy with God’s work. Cultivating seeds in the heart of those God is calling to serve the church will keep God’s movement vibrant for generations. We can say with great conviction that conflict takes advantage of the space between us. The further apart we are, the easier conflict can find room to cause havoc. Our culture has grown accustomed to smearing our neighbor with our computer keys, but it is much more difficult to slander the person sharing a cup of coffee with us. The Marks of Hope is our offering of six ways we might hold one another close with mutual love and accountability. Hope is our destination, faith is trusting in that destination, and love is how we get there.

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