Thursday, February 16, 2017

Where do I draw the line

Am I a Conservative or Liberal?
Am I a Republican or a Democrat?
Am I Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?

With all of the latest posts that are hitting the internet, some people may wonder where I draw the line that defines my stance. Well, I want to point out where my line is drawn.

The easy answer to the questions above is YES.

Let me give you some background. I was born to a family to moved due to my dad's Air Force stations. I was born in California. My sister was born in the Philippines. The first home I remember was in Wichita, Kansas. I grew up in southeastern Oklahoma. I saw a lot of the world early in life. I don't remember much about it. My memories don't kick in until we lived in Wichita. But I was exposed at an early age to different places and cultures and races.

In Wichita, my parents divorced. My dad disappeared from my life. My mom worked hard to make a living for us. We weren't rich by any stretch of imagination. We always had a roof over our head and supper on our plate. We were clothed and comfortable and had some of the things that kids desired (my mom indulged my geek love in its infancy by getting me Star Wars figures). I saw that life could be lived with the necessities met and a few little things added along.

When my grandmother died, we picked up our life and moved to southeastern Oklahoma. We visited my grandparents often and spent extended time with them at different points. It was not a new place, but it was a new life. Moving from the city where everything was within a short drive was totally different than needing to make a special trip to get groceries or clothes. Mom started working at home but eventually had to seek a job away from the house. My sister and I learned that we had chores that needed to be done and we had a part to play in keeping the house in order.

My grandfather was in declining in health. He had emphysema. He progressed downward in strength and ability to do things. But he was a great man who showed me some important things in life. It is because of him that I love to cook. It is because of him that I have a tinkerer nature about me. It is because of him that I extend a lot of grace to people.

Living in southeastern Oklahoma, I grew up in a very theologically conservative church. Through the course of my growing up, my mother renewed her faith and began to move to more charismatic Christian experience. Growing up Methodist, clapping your hands in worship would be considered charismatic by some. But I received a firm grounding in traditional American Christianity and a basic Wesleyan worldview. I also began to be connected with people in other United Methodists churches and began to see the bigger church at work.

When I went to college, I was exposed to a different worldview. I enrolled in the history department and met one of the greatest influences on my life. Dr. Davis Joyce was my advisor. He taught with passion about history and historians. What I learned from him, though, had less to do with historical events and persons. I learned to see the world as a place where people have different points of view. I learned from him that just because people have a different point of view does not mean we have nothing in common. I learned from him that there are people in the world who are overlooked, forgotten, and intentionally rejected. I learned from him that someone needs to come alongside those people and tell their stories, be a comforting arm, or stand with them against injustice. He reads this blog and I want you to know Davis that you have have had a huge influence in my life. I thank you and love you as a friend and mentor.

It was also in college that I knew I was to fill the role of pastor. I bounced around a little in ideas of what I would do after college and with my life. It was the example and leading of one person who opened my ears to hear God's calling into ministry. D.A. Bennett was the campus minister at the United Campus Ministry. He was a pastor in a model I had never seen. He showed me that pastors bring their gifts into the setting to which they are appointed. He showed me that in order to minister to people, you need to know what their life is about. He showed me that there is room to explore and discover and fail. He showed me grace when I did the last one. He reads this blog at times, also. D.A., if it wasn't for you, I would be floating along trying to find my place. It was your example and walk that made it possible for me to come to this place in ministry.

Graduating college, I knew that I was to go to seminary. The one I chose was Asbury Theological Seminary. It was built upon classical Wesleyan theology. I had begun to identify as Wesleyan in my theology (thanks again to D.A.'s influence). I felt this was the place to broaden that part of my life. At Asbury, I was able to bring all of the influences in my life to bear on becoming a minister. What I learned of Wesley and his process of developing the theology that would influence the United Methodist Church made me more convinced that I was called into this life. I was shaped as I was to become a minister in this church. All of the things that had risen and fallen, all of the people who had crossed my path, had brought me to the right place.

And then I began ministry. And I found that people didn't believe the same way. And people didn't think that there were forgotten, overlooked, and rejected persons around them. I found people who were content to be comfortable. And some wanted to be more. From that point at the beginning of ministry, I felt that my place was to move my lines.

When I was in a group of people who were very conservative, I had to represent a more liberal position. If I was around people who were very liberal, I needed to represent the conservative point of view. I chose to be identified as Independent politically. It isn't to say I don't have an opinion. It was to represent the side that needed to be represented in any appointment or setting. I have to move my lines because all too often I have encountered people who won't look past their own lines to see the bigger picture.

I could be conservative all the time because I hold some very conservative ideas.
I could be liberal all the time because I hold some very liberal ideas.
I could identify with a political party because I support platform items in many different parties.
I could identify with a social position because I can understand where they are coming from.

But I choose to move my lines so I can be a voice for people who aren't being heard. I choose to move my lines to speak a counterpoint for an under represented position. I choose to move my lines so that I can bring some sense of community and belonging for the different sides of a position.

I move my lines because I think Jesus moved his lines. He ate with sinners and spoke to them about living a more disciplined life. He attended the parties of the powerful and reminded them of the hungry and homeless outside his door. He walked with Jews to tell them their Kingdom had come to them. He touched the lives of Gentiles to tell them they were welcome to the Kingdom. He created and reigned from the heavenly throne and he moved into earth. He walked among the men and women, powerful and poor, of this world and moved the line of heaven toward them.

I don't draw a line on where I am because I have to move them too often.