Living as United Methodists between the radical ends

The Rev. Beverly L. Wilkes-Null.  2009 UM News file photo.   

The Rev. Beverly L. Wilkes-Null.
Photo courtesy of Highland Hope United Methodist Church.    

Does God still have need of The United Methodist Church?

I’ve been listening to our church fight over the issue of human sexuality for 30 years. As we look toward General Conference 2020, the thing that bothers me most is that while we have fought over human sexuality, there has been very little interdisciplinary discussion about human sexuality during this period.

Perhaps those of us who live in the United States of America are “all knowing” and have the luxury of believing that our way of understanding the Bible is the only way

While there has been very little conversation or willingness to learn from each other around issues of human sexuality, somehow it has been discerned that it is time for The United Methodist Church to be dismantled and destroyed because it no longer represents a few people on opposite radical ends.

What about the rest of us — the centrists who have been willing to listen and find validity in the holy disagreements of the radical ends? What about The United Methodist Church for the rest of us? 

I grew up as a Missionary Baptist in Western Kentucky and became a United Methodist because of its large theological tent rooted in a Wesleyan understanding of grace. I am one who has always viewed our United Methodist Book of Discipline as our covenant of law and grace.

When General Conference 2019 was over, my heart sank as I realized that with the passing of the Traditional Plan, we United Methodists had stripped our book of covenant of its grace.

While I am not seeking to endorse anyone’s 2020 plan for The United Methodist Church, I do want to send out a clarion call to all centrists to allow God to use you to discern a path forward that makes room for all of God’s children in our global United Methodist Church.

We are all fragile humans who have more than once viewed our sacred text through the lenses of our limited experiences. 

If our views of Scripture were never challenged:

  • African Americans would still be slaves
  • African Americans would not have the right to read.
  • African Americans would not qualify for ordination.
  • African Americans would not have the right to vote.
  • Women of every ethnic group “would have to go home.”

Sometimes in our passion to forge the Gospel ahead, we become Pharisees and we get it wrong! We are not Calvinists — we are Wesleyans who bring all of who we are to the Scripture and to our living out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

We are all incompatible with Christian teaching; that’s why we all need a Savior.

While I cannot speak for the 12.6 million United Methodists living in 125 countries, I do offer this clarion call for those of us living between the radical ends: Now is the time to stand up, speak up and show up — prayed up and ready to do God’s work at General Conference 2020. 

Wilkes-Null is directing pastor at Highland Hope United Methodist Church in Highland, Illinois, and a delegate to General Conference 2020.

News media contact: Vicki Brown or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

Sign up for our newsletter!

The Rev. Thomas Kim. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News

Enforced COVID-19 isolation recalls days in prison

The Rev. Thomas Kim reflects on how the enforced isolation recalls his time in prison. While that isolation is hard to take, he writes that it is nearly impossible to take the racism and xenophobia aimed at Asian Americans.
The Rev. Knut Refsdal. Photo by Karl A. Ellingsen

God’s role in times of crisis

Humanity has never found a good explanation for why there is suffering in the world. Why do so many seem to accept that bad answers are better than no answers?
General Church
The Rev. William B. Lawrence.  Photo by H. Jackson/Southern Methodist University.

Possible steps after General Conference delay

A global pandemic has postponed General Conference, but the former Judicial Council president argues there is still work that cannot wait a year.