For Prayerful Discernment
May the grace and peace from our risen Lord be with you.
It is already November! I am writing this article before I leave for Korea for the Pilgrimage for Spiritual Renewal. By the time you receive this November issue of the Advocate, I will be back from that trip.
As you know, on Nov. 22 we are going to have a conference-wide conversation on human sexuality. I am deeply grateful to Rev. Marc Brown and the members of Common Table and the work group members who have been preparing for this conversation. Though the team members have different opinions on this difficult issue, they have been respecting each other and working together in prayer. I appreciate their dedication to this conference-wide conversation.
The issues relating to human sexuality have been very difficult to The United Methodist Church for many years. Though we think that this is not a primary thing in our church, this issue has been dividing our churches, and we have been experiencing pain. Now, we reach the point that some people start saying that the time of amicable separation has come. In this situation I think it will be very important to have a time to sit together, to share one another, and to try to find a way to be one in mission in our conference.
My expectation for this conversation is to seek and find a way to deal with this issue in a different way. Is there any way for us to move from political battle to prayerful discernment? Is it impossible for the people with different understandings to respect each other and move forward in God’s mission? Is there any room in each of us to listen and reflect upon the other side’s stories? How can we restore a respect for the discerning process of the church even though the decision of the church is different from my opinion?
One of the reasons this issue is more serious and difficult is a different understanding and interpretation of the Scripture. Both sides argue on the basis of Scripture. So, this issue is more than a different understanding on human sexuality. This is related to a different understanding on the authority and the interpretation of the Scripture.
Though we have differences in our understanding on this issue, I believe that all of us are seeking the truth, God’s truth on this matter. And I believe that truth will prevail in the end. In Jesus’ death and resurrection we confirmed that God’s truth would prevail in the end. For the time being truth may seem to lose, but God’s truth will prevail in God’s time. All of us are on the journey of seeking and following God’s truth.
I still remember what I have heard from my Old Testament professor in my first year at Methodist Theological Seminary in Seoul Korea. He told us that conviction was important, but if our conviction was not open to truth, our conviction would easily lead us to self-righteousness. Can we not open our conviction to the truth, our Lord Jesus Christ who is still alive and leads our churches through the Holy Spirit? Can we not stop labeling the other side and pray for each other that we may be more humble in discerning the guidance of our Lord? Can we truly apply our faith, hope and love in this matter?
For many times we have used this kind of conversation to advertise one side’s agenda. That was the reason we have lost the trust in our discerning process. This time we tried to do our best to be fair in preparing for this conversation. Now, I appeal to you to pray for this conference-wide conversation. This issue is too sensitive, too complicated and too divisive. And we, The United Methodist Church, are a global church. The decision we make here will impact the mission of fellow United Methodist churches on the other side of the earth. I think without God’s help, we human beings cannot handle this complicated issue properly and wisely. Please, please pray for this conversation.
My prayer is that with God’s help and intervention our gathering may be a blessing to all of us.One more time I appeal you: Please pray for this conversation.
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho