|The United Methodist Church of Red Bank Celebrates Becoming a Reconciling Congregation|
In the opening paragraph of his wonderful little book about the history of the Methodist Church (it was written before we became the United Methodist Church), the great preacher and teacher Halford Luccock tells the story of a bishop standing behind a railing overlooking the American side of Niagara Falls.
He was watching the mountains of water cascading over the falls when his eye caught sight of a little steamboat, The Maid of the Mist, in the water below the falls pushing upstream against the current swirling down the river.
In Luccock’s words, “his imagination took fire,” and he shouted out, “Thank God for something that moves up!”
The book is called, “Endless Line of Splendor,” and it was written in 1950, a time of irrepressible optimism in the Methodist Church and across Protestantism generally. Luccock told the grand story of Methodism, from the genius of John and Charles Wesley, through the expansion in America toward a world mission, to the struggle against slavery and the prophetic witness of the Social Gospel. The Methodist Church really did look like an endless line of splendor.
Looking back over the past half century, Luccock’s vision seems hopelessly naïve. And in many ways it was a reflection of the same optimism that colored all of America in the 1950’s. Although in the aftermath of World War II it is hard to call that vision naïve. In spite of, or possible because of, the trials we had been through, it was easy to believe that anything was possible. It was a time of great dreams.
We had conquered evil on opposite sides of the globe, now we would implement a vision of lasting hope and goodness.
But today that Endless Line of Splendor seems long ago and far away.
Now, more than ever, we need “something that moves up!”
Just before Christmas, the Reconciling Ministries Network announced that the United Methodist Church of Red Bank, New Jersey, was the newest Reconciling Congregation. The Red Bank church declared their intention to include all persons, regardless of "sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, ethnicity, age, faith, history, economic status, marital status, physical and mental abilities, and education."
In their statement of inclusion, they declare that their goal as a Reconciling Congregation is to “transform our church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.”
Think about that.
It is a big goal. An apparently unrealistic goal. It would be an unrealistic goal for a megachurch, and Red Bank is several lightyears away from megachurch status.
But when I looked at the picture of their congregation, I could not help but smile. Isn’t this what the Kingdom of God looks like? They are young and old. There’s an older man with a cane. There’s a young person exuberantly picking up another young person. There are black people and white people. There are fists pumped in the air.
This is exactly what the church is supposed to be!
And when I saw that picture, I thought, “Thank God for something that moves up!”
The Reconciling Statement of The United Methodist Church of Red Bank:
“The United Methodist Church of Red Bank, as a Reconciling Congregation, seeks to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. We celebrate our human family’s diversity of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, ethnicity, age, faith, history, economic status, marital status, physical and mental abilities, and education.
We affirm that all people are created in the image of God and as beloved children of God, all are worthy of God’s love and grace.
We welcome the full equality and full inclusion of all people in the life and ministries of The United Methodist Church of Red Bank as we journey toward reconciliation through Christ.
We recognize that there are differences among us, but we believe that we can love alike even though we may not think alike.
We work diligently to make the larger United Methodist Church inclusive and welcoming of all. This includes affirming the same rights and privileges of marriage equality and the right to be ordained.
We proclaim this statement of welcome to all who have known the pain of exclusion or discrimination in church and society. We invite all people to join us in our faith journey toward greater love, understanding, and mutual respect.”