This Saturday, a few of us will be attending the UMC bishopâ€™s day on the District at Wesley UMC in Waterbury. This is an opportunity to meet our interim bishop, Rev. Peggy Johnson, who will lead the New England Annual Conference of the UMC until August of next year. Attendance is possible both in person and remotely, but registration is required. Let me know if youâ€™d like to carpool!
Amidst a very full plate of activities, Bishop Johnson recently published a memoir, which is also a recent history of the UMCâ€™s embattled state and disagreements on human sexuality. In it, she recounts both the very difficult position of serving as episcopal leader in divided timesâ€”receiving little love from either side of the aisleâ€”as well as the journey with her trans spouse, Mary (also United Methodist clergy), who came out publicly after Bishop Johnsonâ€™s retirement in 2021.
Bishop Johnson has titled the book, The Ever-Expansive Spirit of God: For All Who Feel Left Out. It isâ€”to borrow a phrase from John Wesleyâ€”a quite â€œplain accountâ€ of some very complex and nuanced situations. Bishop Johnson is candid, confessional, and straightforward, tracing her journey without trying to justify or cover up moments that many of us in her position might prefer to forget. But through it all, and as the title indicates, she has encountered a God big enough to hold all that is left outâ€”people, stories, and even hope itself.
As I prepare to step away for a few months, it is my prayer that our expansive view of God, the church, and our calling to community will only widen further. We believe in one who does not leave us to our own limited devices and perspectives, but invites us to a place where those limitations are transformed. As our scripture reading for this coming week (and our centering Church Council passage for the year) lays plain:
So hereâ€™s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary lifeâ€”your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around lifeâ€”and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can doâ€¦ Donâ€™t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. Youâ€™ll be changed from the inside out. (From Romans 12:1-2, The Message version)
May we come this week with hearts ready to be transformed.