On the last day of the 2016 General Conference, Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area reminded those attending that “we will not leave divided because God is not finished with us yet!”
As she recalled Jesus’ resurrection story in the book of Matthew, she asked each person to “get out of that tomb.” This included assumptions about the LGBTQ community and African delegates.
“If you believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but have never asked a gay Christian how they understand the Bible, you gotta get out of that tomb. If you believe that all African delegates are voting from somebody else’s game plan, you gotta get out of that tomb,” Stanovsky said.
Throughout her sermon, Stanovsky illustrated “tomb” moments where we face choices for life or death. This was especially true with the church’s involvement with the Sand Creek Massacre, in which nearly 200 women, children and elderly in the camp were killed and many more left wounded.
“Having worked with descendants of the Sand Creek Massacre for six years, I live with a constant and sobering awareness of the capacity of the church to choose death over life,” Stanovsky said, “and to convince itself that it is doing the will of God when it serves up death time and again.”
Proclaim the good news
But life is out there, Stanovsky emphasized. As in the Matthew story, she said United Methodists are called to proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ is risen, as Mary Magdalene did.
And she warned against being distracted by naysayers who only deal with death.
She added it is easy to be caught up with General Conference, and “to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Romans 12:3), and to imagine that what we do here is Gospel. But it is not.”
Stanovsky concluded that the real work is done once the 10-day event has finished. She gave the General Conference assembly an assignment to “choose life” as they talk about what has happened here in Portland.
“As we return to our homes, we become storytellers,” she said. “The story isn’t over once the church has spoken.” She cited Romans 8:16 in that “the Spirit bears witness with your spirit” to tell a good story.
“What good news is there from The United Methodist Church?” Stanovsky asked.
Robledo is Mountain Sky Area director of communications.