John 13: 34-35 (The Message):
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another… This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
On April 23 our church held a special church conference to vote on whether to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. I was pretty certain that we would vote NOT to disaffiliate. But I was concerned that the vote might be close.
It wasn’t. Over 90% of the members present and voting sent the message that we will remain
with the United Methodist Church. Hallelujah.
Some people are disappointed, and even angry. According to the survey taken last summer,
many people may now leave this congregation, concerned that we are not doing what they
believe we should do. But the mission of the UMC remains to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and a slogan of the church is Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors. Our church professes to reach out to and bless EVERY child of God.
Although I expected the outcome of the church vote, I couldn’t avoid comparing it with another issue of concern in Mecosta County: to possibility of a company called Gotion building a large factory here to manufacture batteries for automobiles. There is no quiet, respectful discussion of the Gotion issue. I contrast that with the more-than-year-long investigation of the LGBTQAI+ issue at our church, and the decades-long discussion in the global church.
At BRFUMC, we conducted a survey, then had meetings to discuss the results. We held Bible
studies open to all about the issue of being welcoming and inclusive, even to people whose
sexuality differs from ours. We had more meetings and answered more questions. Most
importantly, we have treated everybody on every side (there are always more than two sides to a question) with love and respect. We have taken a vote and will move forward based on the results.
At first glance, Gotion seems like a terrific idea: thousands of good jobs, new life in the area.
However, a vocal group of opponents has reduced the thoughtful consideration to noisy enmity.
Township officials, who usually attract no attention at all, have received death threats. Local
meetings to provide information about have been disrupted by people complaining that nobody is providing information while they refuse to listen to information available. People who are cautiously optimistic or cautiously concerned about Gotion are shouted down. The people making the most noise have attracted the attention of news media, state legislators from OTHER districts, and even our congressman, who seems to have taken the stand that we don’t want new opportunities.
With the Gotion issue, loving consideration of opposing views seems to have no place. The
opponents seem determined that anyone who doesn’t think like they do must be shamed,
silenced, and threatened if necessary.
I’m not sure the factory is right for the area. We already have limited housing, there would be
more traffic, and the manufacturing of batteries can cause environmental damage. I’m also
concerned that the “good jobs” available may be beyond the education and skill set of many local citizens. In a better world, the citizens of Mecosta County could have thoughtful discussions, listen to people who have detailed information about the site, the plans, and the area. We could listen with love for one another.
What would Jesus do? I don’t know if he would want us to build a factory in Green Township.
He WOULD want us to love one another while we consider it.