The attorney general does not represent United Methodists
I'm getting tired of having to explain that I'm not THAT kind of Christian.
Typically, I've met someone new and I'm explaining that my church isn't one of those churches that says hateful things about the LGBTQ community. In fact, we welcome all people, whatever their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Lately though, my explanation is in reference to almost every headline -- the Muslim travel ban, tax cuts for the rich, attacks on women's rights and most recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions citing the Bible to justify separating families at the border.
Sessions is a member of a United Methodist Church, but as a United Methodist minister myself, I want to emphasize that he does not represent United Methodists as a whole.
The scripture passage Sessions referenced is Romans 13:1-2. It says Christians should submit to government authority. Sounds simple enough, one might suppose. What a handy scripture reference for someone in government authority. But United Methodists don't read any scripture passage in a vacuum. We read every particular passage in light of the whole of scripture.
Sessions has handily ignored passages about treating immigrants justly, knowing that what we do to the most vulnerable is what we are doing to Christ, and that people in positions of authority should use their power justly. Romans 13 ends with, "You must love your neighbor as yourself. Love doesn't do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the law." While it is fine to quote scripture, United Methodists believe we should actually read it.
Our world faces questions unimagined 2,000 years ago. United Methodists recognize that the Bible isn't a scientific document. When we read scripture, we use our minds as well as our hearts. We read scripture in light of current science, psychology, sociology and other sciences.
As a denomination, United Methodists have taken stands acknowledging the human and civil rights of immigrants and their entitlement to fair treatment in the United States. We oppose separating immigrant families and the detention of children. We seek the end of for-profit detention centers and a more just immigration policy.
United Methodists have a deep commitment to serving the poor and society's most vulnerable. The founders of Methodism, the brothers John and Charles Wesley, visited the poor house-to-house in 18th century England. They sought systemic changes that would make the lives of the poor better. United Methodists continue to make what's in the best interest of the poor at the center of our public life.
We admittedly fall short of this ideal, but taking advantage of the most vulnerable for personal gain is decidedly not Methodist.
What is Methodist is living by our three General Rules: 1. Do no harm 2. Do good. 3. Stay in love with God.
The Rev. Melissa Earley is the lead pastor of First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights. She is a former board member of Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors and author of the blog "Waking Up Earley" at www.melissa-earley.com.