This one is very personal for me right now. My mom is dying. She has untreatable cancer. She and my dad are United Methodists at another church. In the midst of this very difficult stage of life for them and for me we are learning once again to count our blessings. Here's one of them:
#2 - the UMC Connection really matters
I know my parents' pastor. I know a lot of other United Methodist pastors better, but still I know him. I know that I can trust him with my mom's spiritual care so that I can be her son right now and not her pastor. In talking with my parents, I know that their pastor is doing a wonderful job. I don't know all the ins and outs of his theology. Their church tends to be more conservative than the one I serve now and much more than the one I served previously. I'm sure he and I have some differences. But I know that I can trust him as a United Methodist pastor to provide sound care and guidance.
Over the past year the church I serve now has provided pastoral care for a United Methodist who was hospitalized a long distance from their home community, had a pastor from another UMC lead a wedding in our sanctuary, and another pastor help with a funeral. In every case, while we all would have differences on any number of topics, we knew that we shared a common grounding and a common ministry and could trust each other. I've definitely been to some weddings and funerals led by people of other traditions that have made me squirm in my seat and, in one case, almost walk out. I don't have to worry about whether what the pastor says or how the pastor cares is appropriate.
Do we have important differences in opinion? Of course. We need to not minimize that. But one reason I will always be UMC is because we will continue to celebrate a truly connectional system that has important ramifications for our real-world ministry.