By Rev. Dr. Mark Charles
I was told a story today about an individual in our town who was making payment on an account at a local business the week before Easter. As they were doing so the staff person processing the payment asked if the individual would be going to church on Easter Sunday. When the individual said no, the staffer then invited them to attend her church, which just happened to be a local Baptist church.
“No thank you,” said the individual. “I’m not big into the Baptists.”
“But you’ve never been to our church,” came the reply.
“Can women lead from the front in your church?”
“You see … I would really struggle with that,” said the individual, thinking it would be the end of the conversation.
But it wasn’t the end. The cashier had one more thing to say.
“Well, whatever you do, don’t go to the Methodist church. They have a transgender there.”
“Really? That’s awesome!” said the individual. “That sounds like exactly the kind of church I would like to go to.”
I have to confess when this story was relayed to me, my initial thoughts toward the cashier and her church family were not charitable; the meditations of my heart and the words of my mouth were far from gracious or righteous – they were downright sinful. It would have been really easy for me to respond here by writing a hit piece filled with my own perceptions of the failures and shortcomings of this individual and her church family.
But then I was reminded of Jesus’ teaching towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7, we read these words of Christ:
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For the judgment you give will be the judgment you get, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”
Here’s the thing – Methodists and Baptists have all sinned and all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). In the same way my church is full of sinners, so are Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, Episcopalian churches, Roman Catholic churches, Non-Denominational churches, and so on. To advise a stranger to stay away from one church because of your perception that that church welcomes people you think ought to be unwelcome in church is an act of the kind of judgment and hypocrisy Jesus was warning against in the above passage. Sister in Christ: can’t we do better than that?
But behold what manner of love God has lavished on us. As sinful as we are, we are also called children of God (1 John 3:1). Where sin abounds in us, grace abounds all the more (Rom 5:20). Even though we are sinners, Jesus Christ died for every one of us, proving God’s love for us (Rom 5:8).
Even though we are sinners, we are beloved of God, and God welcomes us as children in God’s own family.
The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that all people are invited to be part of God’s family; all people really are welcome. And if my church provides a place of such welcome for those excluded by other church families; if my church provides a place where those same excluded people will hear of God’s love for them and will be invited to open their hearts to the work of God’s Spirit in their lives … well … actually that just makes me a church leader who’s extremely proud of the way we do life together in our United Methodist Church.
Rev. Dr. Mark Charles is senior pastor at Memorial United Methodist Church, Fernandina Beach
Thank you for trying to open peoples eyes! There is too much hate and ignorance in the world that makes no sense. Shame on that cashier.
It was a “story” he was told…the cashier in the “story” probably doesn’t exist.
A conversation going from an invitation to church to a bashing of another church is horrible. This cashier went from inviting another to receive the gift of salvation, or at least an hour or so of a blessing, to demonstrating exactly why religion has become a weapon. Disgraceful and disgusting. Church is not for perfect people, it is for sinners, and as you’ve so eloquently pointed out we are ALL sinners so church is for all. Thank you for your open mind, open heart, and open arms environment. I haven’t found a church home here yet, but I think I just received a message giving me a nudge.
Thank you Reverend Charles and United Methodist Church.
Yes, for over 200 years, Memorial United Methodist Church, on Centre Street, has been serving our community. What amazes me the most is how Dr. Charles is able to teach the Gospel in a way that resonates with the challenges so many of us are facing today. Indeed, ALL are welcome here…
It’s a “story”.
Yes. It is a story that provides an incredible role model for ways of being in this world, when so many others’ “stories” are filled with ignorance and hate.
Amen to that!
Much like the STORIES in the Bible. Relatable in order to teach a lesson or prove a point. Get it? That’s how STORIES work.
Can’t love this enough or express enough gratitude for this message. Happy to call this congregation my spiritual home.
I remember having the honor of driving a young person from Jacksonville in our first Pride parade. His family had told him to leave their home when he came out. When we got to the Methodist Church, there were so many people wearing welcoming shirts, he was pleased. But imagine his joy to see Free Mom Hugs shirts. He jumped out of the car to receive as many of them as he could. Hate has no home at this church. Thank you!!! The whole community could benefit from following their lead.
It’s true that with over 37,000 Christian denominations scripture can be interpreted in many ways and one’s personal convictions are between God and the individual. However, when any group of any religious or political persuasion deviates from a real American value of “think and let think” and advocates fear bigotry, exclusion and hatred, it’s time to stand in solidarity with the oppressed while continuing to offer a loving hand to the oppressor. It’s also for those who understand the real message of Jesus is to love God and love neighbor to stand up and speak out against bigotry, fear, hatred and exclusion. Jesus was crucified for doing just that and his message sadly is being distorted by fear, “exclusion” and judgmental thinking. This is why I am a United Methodist where open minds, open hearts and open doors live and where love shows up. Thank you Pastor Charlie for speaking out. Silence is complicity.
Sorry Rev. Charlie, but I think your “story” is a parable to make your point. Time to lay off the Baptist and cure your own issues.
I am amazed at how a message of inclusion and tolerance has been vilified by some on this thread . . . it may be the reason that Christianity has been perceived as exclusionary, judgemental and frankly, un-Christian by many. Seriously, let’s work together to love one another, not build walls.
After 20 years in this church teaching Sunday school and Bible school I have left and I’m looking for another church. No one even asked why.
yes it will probably be Baptist Where a lot of the Methodist congregation has already moved on to.
This was written by someone I respect and admire for their incredible courage and faith… not just, in God, but faith in all humanity. I wish more people, who say they are Christians, were as loving and kind—to all people—as this person is.
I’m sorry … as nice as the writer’s message might be I thought it was unnecessarily divisive. Was it really necessary to identify the so-called “bad” church as being “Baptist” in the little story (indeed I thought it was more of a parable)? It turned the article into a puff promotional piece for the Methodist Church. If the Methodists want to advertise themselves as the most loving church for transsexuals, etc. their minister could do it in a positive way without throwing fellow Christians under the bus. Some would call it even “hateful” and it was certainly divisive. Just the things many of the readers declare they don’t like. Stick to the positive. I’m not Baptist and I was raised a Methodist but I found the inclusion of the slam on Baptists as rather offensive and defeated the whole purpose of the article. It’s not their fault their church and congregation are bigger.
You missed the whole point of the article. I suggest you re-read it from a perspective of love.
How about if we don’t have something NICE to say we don’t say anything at all?
Maybe it is a coincidence but Rev Charlie published this soon after a public meeting was held at the large Baptist church on the island organized by the CCDF and Knocke that exposed hateful ideas and speeches against LGBTQ and other citizens. Holding it there it seems like the Baptist administration condones this way of thinking.
And it was not the first such event.
It does not take religion to be divisive or inclusive. It is a people thing. People are too hung up on religion, either theirs or other’s. Religion is a personal viewpoint about the world, not provable, and certainly not something one should impose on anyone else.
Yes, perhaps YOU ought to reread the article. I offered my opinion. You can have a “perspective of love” without criticizing and bashing someone else’s church. As you say … religion is “a personal viewpoint”. So don’t write an uplifting message with a “story” that downgrades someone else’s “viewpoint”. I’m sorry … bashing someone else’s church/religion IS divisive … and it was so unnecessary. You don’t get to write an article of “love” and “inclusiveness” … and then take the opportunity to throw a rock in the process at someone else. And personally I think the story was a load of bull.
A heartbreaking story from Pastor Charles made up from pure gossip…to diss all those close minded Baptist in town! Pastor, do you know this actually happened? Or have you heard it from a friend….who heard it from a friend who heard it from another the Baptist don’t like transgenders? Don’t let Mike Phillips rope you into writing a story adding to his leftist agenda. btw…Phillips could use some pastoral counseling on how to be open minded to those with different opinions. Can you provide please?
You can read the Baptist Pastor’s message in the Citizens Journal. You may reconsider your position.
Counseling may be the true answer, Transvestic disorder occurs when an individual experinces recurent intense sexual arousal when dressing as the opposite sex.according to John’s Hopkins. Hate is not the motivation for rejection, Fear is. Your tree of emotion is rooted by fear and ego.
Amen, and thank you for sharing these insights, Dr. Charles.