Dear Big Middle

ImageDear Big Middle,*

Today I start a series of short blog entries, aimed at The Big Middle of the United Methodist Church. “Big Middle” is a term of endearment.

Many people believe you Big Middlites actually hold the key to our being able to move forward on the issue of same sex marriage. I agree with them. That’s why I want to write just to you.

I also trust some of you have heard about my support for Bill McElvaney, and my own statements, which may strike some of you as unduly extreme. All the more reason to talk.

Why “Big Middle?” Am I suggesting we have an obesity problem?

No. I’m talking about sheer numbers of people. The “middle” is “big” not because of its waistline, but because of its sheer numbers. “Most” American United Methodists find themselves here, and not on either theological extreme.

In the United States, the majority of Methodists live in the “big middle.” All y’all are moderates who either aren’t sure of their view, are typically uncomfortable with most conflicts, or who have an opinion and just don’t know how (or are afraid) to express it.

If that describes you, then this conversation is for you. In these “Dear Big Middle” blogs, I’ll attempt to address, issue by issue, the concerns that folks in the middle have about supporting same sex marriage.

BTW, that means, defacto, that this conversation is not for “conservative” United Methodists, nor liberal ones. So, if you’re a conservative and I don’t answer your comments or approve your comments in this thread, don’t take it personally. If you’re a liberal, and you wonder what the heck I’m doing, please just humor me.

Now, before you say, “But you pastor a progressive, Reconciling Church. What could you know about the The Big Middle?”

Let me assure you, I am one of you. Or at least I used to be. And I’m not old enough yet to have lost my memories. Or my friends.

I grew up right in the middle of the Big Middle, in Dallas, Texas. I was raised up in two of the most “middle” of our middle-megachurches. As a lifelong North Texas United Methodist, I would not be who I am today without the God-blessed Big Middle. I have nothing but respect, affection, and sincere deep love for those who find themselves there.

Conservatives and liberals alike often fail to realize something about the North Texas Conference.

Conservatives: You fail to realize that this conference is not “with” you. They are not deeply and stridently “conservative.” They never will be. They are, on average, “moderate.”
Liberals: This conference in not genuflexively against you. If you fail to realize that, you fail to reach out to those who should become your allies. Let those with ears, hear.

The South Central Jurisdiction is not the Southeast. On average, the former is far more moderate than the latter. That’s why I claim North Texas is the “middle” of the Big Middle. If you want to really understand the Big Middle, you should probably start here. And if you fail to understand that the Big Middle is the true heart of this place, you fail to understand North Texas Methodists.

So, I’m here to embolden you, to cajole you, and to hopefully convince you to step off the fence and stand for the full inclusion of LGBT folks in the United Methodist Church. That’s my goal. I may or may not succeed. But I feel I must try.

Because, whether or not you’ve been paying attention, the truth is that time is short to save this denomination we all love. There are all sorts of forces at work, and these forces may coalesce to tear us apart. Y’all hold the key to any future we have together. So, whether or not I (or anyone) succeed in changing your hearts and minds, it’s worth a try.

Throughout the posts that follow, I hope and pray you’ll be willing to listen.

Where possible, I hope you’ll allow your heart to be changed by God.

And, ultimately, I hope you’ll be willing to step out in ways that might be edgy for you.

Thanks in advance for your time,

EF

*Of the United Methodist Church

Check out the first entry in this series:
The Non Sequitir of the Slippery Slope

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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