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Stay Calm and Carry On

By on October 28, 2018

Rev. Laura Brewster

Stay Calm and Carry On
Ephesians 4:1-6 (CEB)

Introduction: On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a paper to the front door of the castle church in Wittenberg. The paper challenged existing church teaching and practices. Luther wanted to spark conversation. Instead, he sparked a huge reform movement that caused a major schism in the Catholic Church. Reformers who broke away from the Catholic Church would go on to become Lutherans, Calvinists, Anglicans, Anabaptists and other reform minded groups. We usually refer to this schism as the Protestant Reformation.

Why Are Christians So Divided Today?
A study published in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research says there are 45,000 different denominations today. Why are Christians so divided? One reason is that Christians can interpret the Bible in different ways. For example, Martin Luther read “…The righteous person will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17) And he read, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9) Luther then concluded that we receive salvation through faith not works. However, the Catholic Church noted that the Bible says: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (James) and “..the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:27). So the Catholic Church concluded that someone can earn salvation by doing good works that are pleasing to God. Both sides relied on scripture, but they arrived at different conclusions. Additionally, Christians can read the same scripture and disagree regarding whether that scripture is still binding. For example, slavery was accepted in biblical times, but today many of us would say that those passages are culturally conditioned – they were acceptable in a different culture and time, but not binding today.

Challenge to the Unity of the United Methodists Today
Today the United Methodist Church is facing the possibility of schism over the question of how to interpret the biblical passages that speak about homosexuality. Some Christians say passages in the Bible remain binding today. Others say the passages are culturally conditioned and no longer binding. Our denomination has been in conflict regarding this issue for nearly 40 years. Delegates from around the world will meet at a “General Conference” on February 23-26 to debate the issue and possibly vote on a new stance. It is possible that a change in our church teaching on this matter could lead to a schism.

Stay Calm and Carry On
The possibility of change and schism is creating some anxiety. But in the face of that anxiety and fear, we do well to stay calm. How?

  1. Remember that God still has work for us to do as a church. That work will not go away regardless of what does or does not happen in February.
  2. Join in prayer regarding this situation. To sign up, go to https://umcprays.org/
  3. Seek to do the hard work of loving and staying in relationship with fellow Methodist who think differently.

To Learn More
• Attend an information session at 10am on December 1.
• Join a 4-week Sunday afternoon study that begins on January 20.
• Check out resources at https://riotexas.org/gc2019
• Ask your Sunday School class or small group to study: Living Faithfully, Human Sexuality and The United Methodist Church (Published August, 2017)

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Contemporary Worship 9:00am - Sunday Study Groups 10:10am - Traditional Worship 11:00am

7050 Village Center Drive, Austin, TX 78731 512.345.1743 info@NWHillsUMC.org