Can We Find Peace at Thanksgiving?

Gather and Give Thanks

My church continues to struggle and is engaged in a battle of who will control the denomination. I went back and read my commentary a year ago on “The Way Forward” in the current controversy of the United Methodist Church over homosexuality. We now have the report of the commission, the three optional plans they presented, and the recommendations of the Council of Bishops. Here in North Carolina we’ve had a series of “discernment” meetings to discuss the options and to consider the positions of the local churches. Everyone is gearing up to lobby the delegates of the Special Called Session of the General Conference in February 2019. The conference will consider the options and presumably reach a decision on the issues. It’s not just a question of the wording of the Book of Discipline; it’s also about what happens with the potential reorganization of the church, especially if the Wesleyan Covenant Association decides to leave the denomination.

Other than religion writers, I don’t think anyone other than Methodists are concerned about these issues. We’ve been debating dogma for almost 50 years without any resolution, and I’m not confident that we will come up with a practical solution this time.

My fears and concerns are not only for the future of the United Methodist Church but also about the future of the LGBT Civil Rights Movement. It is under attack by the federal government on many levels, including a potential reversal of Supreme Court decisions. My pastor’s Thanksgiving sermon was about relying on faith to soothe our worries and ease our souls. That’s a hard road for me right now. I am concerned not only with LGBT rights but also the explosion of gun violence in this country, the lack of social justice not only in our economy, but also in our judicial system. We are a divided nation that seems incapable of breaking out of gridlock to reach solutions. Love is the answer, but how do we express unconditional love in such a fractious society?

I’m reviving an old tradition and going to DC on the train for Thanksgiving this year to visit friends. Hopefully there will be a break in the demonstrations, and I will avoid the traffic by leaving my car at the station. We tend to blame all of our problems on Congress and sometimes see it as the center of everything. In fact, because of the gridlock we’ve been pretty much able to get along without it. I’m going to an inter-faith supper preceding Thanksgiving, which is pretty unusual. We tend to think of the holiday as a Christian celebration, but in fact it never was. It is about family, community, friends, and at least one day a year in which we express our gratitude for being Americans. It is also the occasion when many Americans choose to be very generous with their time and money.

God Bless America.