Pray for the United Methodist Church

— from Pastor Steve
I just read a fascinating article by Diana Butler Bass, who specializes in American religion and culture. She reminds us that the Methodist Church split in the years prior to the civil war over slavery, abolition, and biblical interpretation. A national denomination split into regional bodies, north and south.
Diana Butler Bass goes on to say that, “As the churches divided over slavery then, so they are dividing over sexuality and gender now.” She says that many of the biblical arguments that were used to support slavery back then are used now to reject the humanity, gifts, and dignity of women and LGBTQ persons.
February 23 – 26 will be a special General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis, MO to decide the way forward for the Church on issues of sexuality. Many of us are hoping that the United Methodist Church will stay together by adopting the One Church Plan. This will avoid a split by removing the anti-homosexual language from our Book of Discipline and allow Annual Conferences and Bishops to decide who they will ordain and not ordain and local clergy to decide who they will marry and not marry. 
Another plan is called the Traditionalist Plan. If it were to pass, the current anti-gay language would stay in the Book of Discipline and become more punitive. This would force a split. While trying to avoid this, Butler Bass argues that there could be worse things. She says that if the United Methodist Church splits “for the sake of loving our neighbors and practicing grace, hospitality, and mercy in ways that speak with power to those who have been betrayed, shamed, and marginalized, then they will be on a path into a life-giving future.”
In reality not much will change for us as a local church. We will go on doing what we do everyday, accepting all God’s children into the life and ministry of the church. But I would ask you to pray for the United Methodist Church during this time. If you would like to read more about this, go to our conference website at and you will find plenty of information..

Focus on Love

Interesting — during the most divided time nationally that I have seen in my lifetime, locally I see people working together. Nationally, politics are ugly and people seem so divided. But I attended two events today that made me feel pretty good about our local community and some of the good work being done. 
In the morning I attended a meeting of CASP (Community Alliance for Safety and Peace). This alliance is made up of pastors, social service organizations, school officials, law enforcement, and city officials. It was founded to try to reduce violence in Salinas. Our police chief, Adele Frese spoke to us and reported that violent crimes and homicides are down. She spoke of the new focus of community policing. This is all about building relationships in the community and seeing the community as partners in prevention and solving crime. There is also an officer who is now assigned to work with the homeless. I left this meeting feeling inspired and enthusiastic about our community and the way people work together and support each other.
At noon I went to a faith leaders lunch with the mayor. This was simply a chance for local pastors to meet the mayor and for him to thank the pastors for the work they are all doing throughout Salinas with youth, gang prevention, recovery groups, homeless ministry, and in many other ways. I would not agree with many of these pastors on theological fine points and would probably find myself on the opposite side of many of the social issues that are tearing the country apart. But on love for Salinas and making it a stronger community we could all agree and appreciate each other. 
There is a lesson here. Focus on love for community and country, know that there will be strong disagreements, but work together wherever you can on making life better for everybody. Insist that our leaders serve the common good and not their own egos. I see this in Salinas and that gives me hope. 
In service,

Pastor Steve Lundin