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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Inclusion isn’t a dirty word

    May 22, 2023 / By Pastor Daniel J. Bradley, Faith Journey United Methodist Church

    “When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas, son of James.

    All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” Acts 1:13-14

    Some of the wisest people in my life are women, beginning with my wife, Mary. Throughout our 21 years of marriage and ministry, her wisdom has guided us through tumultuous times, kept me from making a fool of myself, and helped me grow spiritually as a disciple of Jesus Christ. In the backdrop of what I do on Sunday morning—she is always there, prepping me and supporting me through her work at Faith Journey United Methodist Church. She is the genuine article; without her and her love for God, I could not do this ministry vocation.  Thank You, Mary, for rescuing me when I was not walking with God and helping me rediscover my love for God and the Church of Jesus Christ.

    The Rev. Dr. Chris Evans, a Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School professor, commented on one of my many classes with him, “If it were not for women, the Methodist movement would have been a great idea that went nowhere.” I believe that to be true because I have seen the power of God work through women to push, pull, and drag the church, kicking and screaming, into the glory of God. Through the countless number of women in the church, we have seen the power, strength, and veracity of what an agile and passionate spirit can bring to the table.

    In 1761, John Wesley licensed Sara Crosby as a preacher. Former parts of the Methodist Movement would ordain women in the 1800s. It was, however, not until May 4, 1956, that the General Conference of the Methodist Church granted full clergy rights to women and full membership in the Annual Conference.

    Some of the otherwise women in my life are my colleagues and spiritual director. They are also lay people in the church who help direct my staff. I might say that my spiritual upbringing in the United Methodist Church has been at the hand of wise and compassionate women who were in harmony with the Holy Spirit. I must also acknowledge that many male clergy colleagues have been equally important in my spiritual development. One of which I have on speed dial whenever the need arises.

    When we think of Pentecost, we think of Peter and the disciples preaching in different languages as the Spirit gives the ability. We don’t stop to think about the certain women that Luke writes about and not Mary, the mother of Jesus. Theologians speculate that maybe Luke is referring to Mary Magdalene, Johanna, Salome, or Peter’s mother-in-law. What if Luke is trying to tell us that there were women that Jesus encountered in his ministry that had gathered there in that upper room in prayer as well?

    Think about the women Jesus encountered over his three-year public ministry campaign…

    • Mary whom anointed Jesus’ feet…
    • Martha who served a banquet in Jesus’ honor…
    • The woman caught in adultery…
    • The Syrophoenician woman…
    • The little girl whom Jesus raised from the dead…
    • The Samaritan woman at the well…
    • The woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed…

    These are just a few that come to mind, but what if more were gathered there in prayer? What if the women outnumbered the male disciples? Would we think differently about the Church and the role of women in the church? Would we then look to ourselves and God and ask why our exclusionary practices have failed to include all who have come into a relationship with God?

    Faith Journey United Methodist Church is a very different church in many ways. Its DNA is not just male and female but non-binary, gay, lesbian, and transgender. It is an amalgam of people made in the imago dei. The communion table at Faith Journey does not belong to the church. It is, as our communion liturgy reminds us, “Christ’s Holy Table.” All are welcome at the table. All have a place where their faith meets God in breaking bread and sharing the cup of salvation.

    Inclusion isn’t a dirty word…It’s Jesus' word, “Come to me, ALL who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28.

    I am seeking a new move of the Holy Spirit that includes everyone. I look forward to fellowshipping with old friends at Annual Conference in just a few days. I am looking to seeing Jesus in your eyes and embracing the gifts and graces you bring to the table! But, most of all, I can’t wait to share in Holy Communion.

    It’s not about US or THEM. It’s about God doing what God does with imperfect people sanctified and marked Holy in Jesus. I am proud to be a United Methodist this time, and I hope and pray that our love for God and one another flows from, as my wife often prays, “from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes.” So let us love one another and indeed be the disciples of Jesus Christ.

    TAGGED / Connectional Ministries

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."