Christ Bears the Church
Rev. Patricia Simpson | University Temple UMC, Seattle
Editor’s note: This blog piece, riffing off the same Brian Wren hymn Bishop Elaine wrote about earlier this week, originally appeared in the University Temple UMC Newsletter. It is reprinted with permission.
As we approach the United Methodist General Conference this weekend, I have a hymn stuck in my head. “Christ Loves the Church,” by Brian Wren, has these words in the second verse:
Christ bears the church, corrupted and conforming,
obsessed with trifles, blessing greed and war.
His love outwits us, spinning gold from straw,
through saints and prophets, praying and reforming.
The triple meaning of “bears” is shaping my understanding of what’s at stake for The United Methodist Church.
Christ endures the church — putting up with our endless struggles over the full inclusion of Christians no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a sign of amazing grace that the expansive spirit of Jesus still inhabits our part of the Body of Christ.
Christ carries the church — as in that old poster of footprints on the beach. Why only one set of footprints? “That was the time you could not walk on your own, and I carried you,” Jesus says. Only that constant bearing-up can explain the endurance of United Methodists whose lives were declared “incompatible with Christian teaching,” who have stayed with the church through over 40 years of legislated discrimination. Christ has carried us, in the womb of mercy — along with supportive families, allies and reconciling congregations.
Christ gives birth to the church — This is my hope for the gathered body in St. Louis—that from the long, difficult gestation a new church will be born. Whether we take a just and inclusive stance together, or whether a separate denomination is born, new life will come forth.
So let us join the “saints and prophets, praying and reforming.” Check out the link below if you want to inform your prayers with news updates, or even watch the proceedings live.