On Monday October 12th, the New York Times had a review of a jazz concert in Brooklyn. One of the musicians was Ravi Coltrane the son of legendary saxophonist, John Coltrane. (“A Love Supreme”, 1964) The reviewer wrote this about Ravi Coltrane,

“Mr. Coltrane, who played much of the set on soprano saxophone, provided the trio’s most heroic voice, its main source of impassioned exposition.”

I am not sure how the reviewer defines “impassioned exposition,” but whatever its meaning, there is a bit of it in the following.

I title my thoughts; “The United Methodist Church, Isms, and the Republican Party.

One difference between the Republican Party and The United Methodist Church is that while both are deeply divided, some United Methodists are talking about schism/separation, while most Republicans from right to left in their perspectives, want as they choose a new speaker of the House, to find ways to maximize their recent electoral victories. Some in The UMC seem to want, without saying it openly, to ignore the learnings that the denomination derived from its challenging its sexism in 1956 by voting to ordain women, and in 1968 when The United Methodist Church was birthed, it challenged its racism by merging the all-black, separate and segregated Central Jurisdiction.

Today in The UMC, there are those who accept and agree with our faith-based challenges against sexism and racism, but they contradict that history of faith-based evolution and change in the denomination, re: gender and race, by continuing to urge the denomination to engage in the practice 0f heterosexism in our language and legislation.

Thus, while the Republican Party is not yet discussing division and separation, there are those United Methodists who in the past affirmed faith-based challenges to sexism and racism, are now discussing schism/separation because they believe in faith-based heterosexism, while many of us cannot. “Isms” seem to live on within the Church, despite successful efforts in the past to defeat them. “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”

Much to the surprise of many of us, The United Methodist Church today is engaged in a struggle between spirituality and fundamentalism. David Tacey in “The Spirituality Revolution” describes the conflicts between the two. A conflict hard to imagine existing in 21st century United Methodism. But, it does.

“Spirituality and fundamentalism are at opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. Spirituality seeks a sensitive, contemplative, transformational relationship with the sacred and is able to sustain levels of uncertainty in its quest because respect for mystery is paramount. Fundamentalism seeks certainty, fixed answers and absolutism, as a fearful response to the complexity of the world and to our vulnerability as creatures in a mysterious universe. Spirituality arises from love and intimacy with the sacred and fundamentalism arises from fear of and possession of the sacred. The choice between spirituality and fundamentalism is a choice between conscious intimacy and unconscious possession.”

I enjoy jazz because in its creativity, improvisation, call and response, and its ability to change and mature, I claim, is a manifestation of spirituality. Sexism and racism existed/exist, because of fear. That fear was challenged and transformed as The United Methodist Church in language and legislation included women and blacks, rather than separating and segregating them. Sadly, today, the fear that fundamentalism produces, is evident in UMC language and legislation that promotes heterosexism.

My hope is that General Conference 2016, in its decision making, will choose Spirituality over Fundamentalism.

 

Rev. Gil Caldwell

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who lives in Asbury Park, N.J. He was active in the Massachusetts unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. His recent book, Something Within: Works by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is available from Church Within A Church. Gil's advocacy efforts were also featured in the film "From Selma to Stonewall - Are We There Yet?" Learn more at truthinprogress.com

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