Abuse is NOT a Christian Value

bible-wedding-ringsI have to make an acknowledgment: My home state of Mississippi does not have the best reputation in the world. We rank at or near the bottom in most of the good quality of life indicators and at or near the top in all of the bad ones. One of the negative areas where Mississippi frequently ranks highest is the rate of domestic violence.

When I was a paramedic in Mississippi, domestic assault calls were common and frequent. There was rarely a week that went by that I or another crew working on my shift would not be sent to a home because some dude decided to hit his wife (I acknowledge that men are victims of physical abuse as well, but I do not recall being called to any such situations). I simply could not fathom how such could be tolerated. I can not understand how a man could raise his hand to a woman after he vowed before God and a congregation to love her as Christ loves the church, which is what a reflection of marriage is intended to be.

And then I read this. Knowing that a pastor believes this helps me to clearly fathom how someone could think that abuse is OK and even biblical.

Andy Gipson is the chair of the Judiciary B committee in the Mississippi and has refused to allow the committee to take action on a bill which would have made domestic violence a grounds for divorce in Mississippi. Citing moral convictions, Gipson – who is also a Baptist pastor – refused to even allow the committee to take up the bill. When asked why this is what he had to say:

At a time I think we need to be adopting policies that promote marriage and people sticking together, I have some serious concerns about opening the floodgates any more than they already are. I think the floodgates are already open and this just tears the dam down.”

We need to have policies that strengthen marriage. If a person is abusive, they need to have a change in behavior and change of heart.

How dare he.

While there is certainly room to debate what grounds for divorce should be valid, domestic violence is not one of those issues to be debated. Domestic violence is never OK and should never be tolerated, especially by clergy.

Let me shout this from the mountaintops: DOMESTIC ABUSE IS NOT A CHRISTIAN VALUE!

No pastor should ever ask a spouse to remain with an abuser because divorce is a “sin” or because marriage is intended to be forever. As pastors, as Christians, we should do all we can to help that person get out of that situation (and pastors, in most states we are mandatory reporters and failure to do so can carry jail time).

Scripture makes clear what a marriage is supposed to look like:

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.

As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:25-33 (NLT)

These words do not sound like a condoning of abuse to me. A man does not love his body with violence, therefore he should certainly not “love” his wife by raising his hand to her. For any pastor to suggest that allowing domestic violence to be used as a grounds for divorce will somehow “open the floodgates” for divorce is just plain ridiculous and inconsistent with biblical teaching.

I pray Rep. Gipson changes his views and realizes that Christ wants better for his children.

Revival Starts With Me

Shiloh-UMC-logo-final-webFor a good while now, I have been trying to discern what God’s vision is for Shiloh. I have several things that have entered my mind, several possibilities, lots of ways we can serve Powell County and even how we might improve our building and grounds. I feel like God has a great mission and vision for Shiloh and wants to use us to show the love of Christ to many people. But how?

Figuring that out begins with me on my knees.

Lent is coming up and my Lenten prayer focus (really starting now) will be on Shiloh’s mission and how God wants to use us. Whether you’re part of Shiloh or not… Will you join me?

“Starts With Me” by Tim Timmons has been on my mind as I have been pondering how I can prayer for my congregation. Any sort of revival begins with me. It begins with all of us. Read the lyrics, or listen to the song, and remember that God uses us to do his work and that any sort of discernment in his mission begins with us in prayer.

What can I do to leave a legacy?
How can I speak with authority
When I can’t see You, I can’t see You
How can I know the dreams You have for me?
How do I believe beyond what I have seen?
When I can’t hear You, I can’t feel You now
Oh no, no, no

[Chorus:]
You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak you’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
Oh, it starts with me

Why do I try to work outside of You?
Knocking down doors I shouldn’t be going through
Well, I’m so tired, I’m so tired
You take my burdens off of my shoulders
You break the lies that hold me back
So I’m not sure enough
Oh, oh, oh, oh

[Chorus:]
You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak you’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
Yeah, it starts with me

I really wanna change the world
I really wanna sing Your song
But I know revival’s got to start with me
I really wanna change the world
I really wanna sing Your song
But I know revival’s got to start with me

[Chorus:]
You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak you’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak you’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
It starts with me

In a State of Grief

16487258_10202696045679339_4022807814672635655_o
Credit: Rev. Giles Lindley

Yesterday as I was driving into Stanton to run some errands, I heard my phone chime with a message. When I reached my destination, I checked my phone before I went inside. It was a message from a friend and clergy colleague in the North Georgia Annual Conference with a link to the website of Getwell Road UMC in Southaven, Mississippi. Her message was, “Have you heard about this?” When I clicked the link, it was voting results of a congregational vote (the page has since been removed). The result of the vote, overwhelmingly, was that the congregation would seek to disassociate from the United Methodist Church.

I was floored.

Then resident bishop of the Mississippi Annual Conference, James Swanson, Sr., issued a statement confirming not only Getwell Road was exploring a disassociation but that The Orchard in Tupelo, Mississippi was also discerning leaving.

Lead Pastor of The Orchard, Rev. Brian Collier, stated that, “he doesn’t want to get involved in the debate. ”

The argument is going to be a long, drawn out one. And we think it’s an enormous distraction and we don’t be distracted. We want to get on with the ministry Jesus has called us to.

I think Rev. Collier and I would have to agree to disagree.

While wanting to concentrate on ministry without a “distraction” is commendable, I am disheartened that he and Rev. Bill Beavers (Getwell Road’s lead pastor) and their congregations have not given the Commission on a Way Forward time to complete their work. I believe that we should see the process through, wait for General Conference to decide what course of action the denomination will take, and then make decisions on whether to stay or go. I have heard rumors that other churches are also considering taking similar actions and this causes me even more disappointment. While I do not agree with unity for the sake of unity, I also don’t believe that the Body of Christ should be unnecessarily further divided.

Now is not the time to be making our exit.

I intend to remain a pastor in the United Methodist Church at least until this process is finished and wait for General Conference to make their decision. Then, and only then, will I further discern how I live out the calling that God has placed on me. Right now, I intend to continue to pray for the United Methodist Church, our congregations, and all who are involved in the decisions as we discern how we understand scripture and seek to live and minister together. I am watching, listening, praying, and waiting. To do anything else at this point, in my opinion, is not prudent.

I hope you will join me in praying for Getwell Road, The Orchard, their pastors, parishioners, and everyone within the Mississippi Annual Conference who are involved in these discussions. And pray that we exercise restraint and not jump to premature conclusions.

Now is not the time to abandon ship.