Born Again Again
Carol Howard Merritt on reclaiming faith
All posts licensed under Creative Commons, some rights reserved by Carol Howard Merritt.
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As I work today, my mind travels to the United Methodist clergy who came out as LGBTQ before the General Conference, to challenge the denomination’s policy which bans the ordination of “practicing homosexuals.” While the number is stunning, I keep thinking of each individual person who has risked their livelihood and calling, for this historic moment.
It’s important to understand the dysfunctions at church as systems. We know this. Most of us learn this in seminary. But then we get caught up in things, and it all feels so personal. So it’s good to remind ourselves of the reasons why systemic thinking makes sense.
One pastor in New Orleans would end every examination by asking, “What is your favorite work of fiction?” The other ministers collectively groaned. But I applauded the question. To be in South Louisiana meant being in a land of stories. As this NYT article observed, South Louisiana is “a place that produces writers the way that France produces cheese—prodigiously, and with world-class excellence.”
A friend from seminary visited a couple of weeks ago. Her father-in-law was a pastor in the South, and she had been on a church staff for years before she became a pastor. She talked about how the male pastors of former generations would say that they were going to make visits, and they would spend the afternoon at the golf course.
“Do we lean in, or blame society?” We don’t need a solution that addresses either/or. With many structural inequities, injustices, and cruelty, the answer is both/and. Do we feed the homeless, or advocate for a society that no longer produces so many homeless people? Do we protest the death of one young black man, or do we work to change the brutal policing system? Do we send the people in Flint bottled water, or do we fix the pipes? The answer to all of these is yes and yes.
I used to get a phone call every Monday morning. “I just wanted to let you know what’s being said,” the caller would begin, and my body would tense as if preparing to be punched. Then, I would get the rundown of every complaint that people had about me.