Coming of Age as a Couple

CrossOver reflection for Week Six • Beginning January 6, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 19

By Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth

Can you come of age more than once? How many times did Jesus “come of age?” Was it a one-time thing when he was 12 and stayed back in the temple to hang out with the religious scholars and teachers? Or, was it when he entered into the muddy Jordan River to be baptized like all the others by John and communicate that he too needed to be touched by waters of grace and hear of God’s love? Perhaps Jesus came of age when he encountered the Canaanite woman as she asked for her daughter to be healed and was challenged to realize his ministry is to share God’s love and grace with all people. 

Jesus came of age all of these times and more. Each time he delved deeper into the realization of God’s deep love for him and his call to live out that love, he had a coming of age moment.  

I have had various moments in my own life. There was a time in my life when I would approach communion with the thought, “make me worthy to receive this sacrament.” Through much interpersonal work and prayer, one day the narrative changed, “through God’s love and grace I am worthy, I am God’s beloved.” It was a coming of age time, into both my worthiness as a child of God and hearing God’s call into ministry.

Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth and Lori Alton
Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth and Lori Alton.

Coming of age is not solely an individual endeavor, it is also something that can be experienced within a family, a relationship and a community. For Lori and I, we experienced a coming of age moment when we got married on May 20, 2017. It was a moment over 24 years in the making.

Our relationship, which began during my last year of seminary, was complicated in the life of the church. We knew we loved each other, made a life-long commitment, and we knew that I was called to serve the church, specifically The United Methodist Church, my life-long faith community. In faith, we struggled to make it work. We played, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In time, we found community outside the church to affirm our relationship and discovered support within the church. I had trusted colleagues who became valued friends where our relationship was also affirmed. 

Not being fully out though, created limitations in our relationship and ministry. We had talked about marriage off and on, but felt we wanted it to be something we could share with the wider community, plus the legality was not there yet. On June 26, 2015 same-sex marriage became legal in the USA and our talk went into action. We began planning and getting excited. When I signed the UMC Clergy Out letter in May of 2016, we no longer had to decide how to handle the church.

When we gathered with family and friends, with those who had supported us through the 24 years, we had a complete sense that we, as a couple, were loved and affirmed by them as well as God. Lori shared with me this morning, that when we had a blessing of our marriage at church, that support of the faith community spoke to her of God’s love in a new way.

We came to age as a couple, fully embracing and embraced by the love of family and community and delved deeper into the understanding of God’s love for us as beloved daughters, as a beloved couple. What are some of your coming of age moments, as an individual or with others?

Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth is currently appointed to Open Door Churches, a cooperative of six United Methodist faith communities in and around Salem, Oregon. She also serves the Oregon-Idaho Conference as chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry and Agenda Chair for the Annual Conference Session.

Comments (11)

  • Wendy, I’m a bit removed from our UMC, so your reflection brought your news today. I really appreciate this reflection and sincerely, completely congratulate you and Lori. One of my fond memories of you happened back when you served the Pendleton UMC and we were both on the district comm on ministry. I stayed with you during one of our meetings. You let me walk your dog whose name I don’t recall. It was the 1st time I ever walked a dog and loved the experience. As I continue to grow into my relationship with the UU’s here in Bend, I continue appreciating the kindness offered me by UMC colleagues and friends these past 9 years. I had crossed over, keeping my deacon relationship. But, indeed, the UU loud and clear affirmation of everyone was a huge part of the beckoning, and the joy I now experience every day. Jim joined me a few years later. Grace and peace, Annis Henson

  • Amen Pray for sound doctrine. Rev. Dodd, who said anything about being a Methodist. I was referring to being Christian when I referred to God’s Holy Word being inerrant. Granted, modern translations cannot be without some unintended error but overall completely sound. I am not willing to risk eternity on the wisdom of men.

    True, Methodists, as with all members of other denominations, are not required to profess that God’s Holy Word is inerrant. However as an appointed Methodist Lay Pastor, I am compelled to testify to the inerrant Word of God

  • Rev. Meredith Dodd

    I appreciate the connection McLaren makes between Jesus at age twelve and Jesus being baptized. For McLaren, both stories show that Jesus and God have ” a parent-child relationship , a deep connection of love and joy” (89). I like McLaren’s imaginative approach to these stories, and I find myself untroubled that McLaren does not seem to espouse biblical inerrancy, since this is not a particularly United Methodist doctrine.

    As for Rev. Woodworth’s writing, I appreciate how she describes her journey toward growing in the knowledge and love of God. Understanding our belovedness isn’t something we do on our own, but in deep covenantal relationship with God, the church, and our families. If we tried to go it alone, how would any of us ever learn to love our neighbors as ourselves?

  • Excuse me, I thought that we are supposed to be responding to Chapter 19 of “We Make the Road by Walking”, not running a venue for personal essays about immoral sexual relationships prohibited in the Scriptures. Genesis 1:26-29, 10:1-28, Leviticus 18:22-30 and Romans 1:20-28 are crystal clear and easily understood. A 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision does not alter God’s Word nor Marriage Covenant.

    “Coming of Age”, says who? Genesis chapters 1 and 2 describe our ageless God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no scriptural description of Christ coming of age,only the maturing of His human body. With regard to the Canaanite woman and her daughter, Isiah 49:6 clearly announced ” I will give you
    (the Messiah) as light to the Gentiles that you should know My salvation to the ends of the earth.”

    Homosexuality is just another sin. It is no greater than all sins. We are forbidden by God’s Holy and inerrant Word from treating sin as righteousness and putting it alongside God’s covenants and law.
    Let those who are dead set on pushing their scripturally immoral agenda, stop seeking to create create disputes and division among the saints. I Corinthians 1:10

    Now, on to our intended purpose, responding to Chapter 19. Having read the entire book in the fall of 2018, I think it is important to discover McLaren’s over all opinion of God’s Word and understand his socioeconomic/sexual creativeness stance before responding to his opinions. It is vital that one first notice that there is no Bibliography and that there are no footnotes to give credence to those statements that he erroneously assumes readers will consume as fact. The only quotes he uses are a few scriptures and the italicized statements which could only be quotes from his own books.

    Chapter 19 is primarily a continuation of 1960’s social activism and “Establishment Protesting” which he introduces in chapters 12, 22, 27, 31, 37 and 38. Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34) Jesus was not a “young protestor joining a movement” He was and is our blessed redeemer.
    The peace Christ brings to us is peace between God and man (redemption). There will be no earthly peace in this fallen world, only peace between Christians and God. Christ made no promises about receiving earthly justice nor scioeconomic equality.

    McLaren goes so far as to invent his own definition of the word repent, He calls Repentance, “Rethinking everything” Christ’s Church should cling to the true meaning of repent: confess our sins and turn away from them. God said “For my thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways , saith the Lord”. Isiah 55:8

    Jesus’ baptism of repentance symbolized the washing away of our sins after true repentance not McLaren’s “being immersed in a flowing river of love…” . Our baptism reminds us that Christ washed away our sin and that we are raised from death in sin to life through His sacrifice,death and resurrection.
    Jesus was not “identifying Himself with this growing protest movement” as McLaren claims. The Gospel is not some socioeconomic political movement but id God’s plan of salvation. Remember, everything in the Old Testament points forward to Christ and everything in the New Testament points backwards to Christ.

    McLaren continues to disguise his rejection of the Bible as God’s Holy and inerrant Word by writing in the third person. “Some claimed to hear the voice of God saying”, “You are My Son whom I dearly love,” Luke 3:22. McLaren has already declared the Holy Bible to be “an artistic collection of even older stories adapted from the Middle East.” See chapters 5, 12, 13 and 15. In chapter 15 he writes, “Many of us suspect that Luke made up this story about Mary to echo Isiah’s prophecy about a son born to a virgin, just as he invented the story of Elizabeth conceiving in old age to echothe story of Sarah.”

    Well, no Isaac, no John the Baptist and no virgin birth can only mean no Messiah for Brian McLaren.
    So why is he a post modern activist? Because he is strictly a humanist spouting love and peace without a divine, virgin born Savior to fulfill all the Law and prophecy. If the Bible is not entirely true, then “we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15: 17-19.

    Praise God that the Holy Bible is indeed the inerrant Word of God and that “The gates of hell shall not prevail against Christ’s Church.” Matthew 16:18

  • I love this. It is so important to hear and receive the affirmations of our love in a time that has become more difficult to share. Thank you❤️

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