By The Rev. Gil Caldwell
I am a fourth generation African American United Methodist. Almost 78 years ago I became a “cradle Methodist” as I was born as a member of a Methodist preacher’s family in Greensboro, North Carolina. Bishop Morris Brown, the 2nd Bishop of the African Methodist Church (AME) was one of my (I do not remember how many “Greats”) Grandfathers.
I BELIEVE IN A CHURCH that has demonstrated the capacity to move from the exclusion of persons because of their race to inclusion. My grandfather was born a slave and I remember how despite the awfulness of that reality, his Methodist Church and Methodism were important to him.
I was alive to see Methodism attempt to solve its divisions over slavery in 1939 by creating a racially segregated, non-regional Central Jurisdiction. And, I have lived long enough to share in the creation of a United Methodist Church that has gotten rid of institutionalized racial segregation in its structure as well as its local churches.
I admit that at one time in my life I allowed the culture of gender bias cause me to be silent as women were denied ordination in the church of my birth. But, I have lived to see the bias against women eliminated.
Today, I believe that if I live to observe the actions of the 2012 General Conference, I will have lived to see The United Methodist Church remove from its language and legislation words that deny the God-given created humanity of same gender loving persons. And, I expect that Conference to say a bold “yes” to complete ministry to same sex couples that will include language that enables United Methodist clergy to perform unions and marriages for same sex couples!
My father, the Rev. G. Haven Caldwell used to end every service with the benediction found in Jude: 25, 26. It begins, “Now to (Him) who is able to keep you from stumbling…”
I have lived long enough to see my Church “stumble” on matters of race and gender and sexual orientation. But, I have seen my Church with God’s help, correct those stumbles as it has moved from “screening people out, to screening people in.”
I BELIEVE IN A CHURCH (as does Common Witness) that “Live(s) our Wesleyan tradition as people of the warmed heart, enlightened mind, and extended hand.” I have seen us change in order to live up to that. I expect us, with God’s help, to continue to change.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
© 2011 Love Your Neighbor