When I was a little kid, growing up in Kentucky, there was a southern saying that I always hated to hear. The phrase "Shame on you" spoken by church people has always made me uncomfortable. My mom and my grandmother both were raised in church cultures that relied heavily on fear and shame. Even today, when I hear someone from a church setting using that phrase, I rebel against it. Jesus came to free people from shame.
I'm sad for the many people who equate going to church with feeling shame. I remember when my daughter was baptized and all of my in-laws came. They had never been in a mainline Protestant church before. I remember my sister-in-law saying, "Your church is just one big party!" I think it was the first time she left a church service with a sense of joy instead of a sense of guilt. When we talked about confession, I realized how different our sense of it was. For her, the act of confession was part of the punishment, because there was shame in speaking your sins to a priest. I always understood confession as an unburdening, not to a human, but in a time of release to God. While my sister in law experienced shame in confession, I experienced grace.
As a child, I was surrounded by a wonderful grace-filled, loving congregation. Adults in the church took time to know me, to know my name, to hear about what I was interested in, and to celebrate the small ways I was able to serve the church.
Last Sunday, a sect of people who speak the language of shame, began a new denomination, The Global Methodist Church. Churches who are considering joining this new denomination are supposed to hold a vote in their congregations where at least 2/3 of the members agree that they want to leave The United Methodist Church. The leaders at some of those churches are moving ahead with this even before they have had this meeting with their people. For churches who plan to stay with the United Methodist Church, a vote is not needed. Tuskawilla is planning to be part of the continuing United Methodist Church and are proud to #BeUMC!
I was brought up to believe that the work of Jesus and the work of the church was to lift burdens, such as shame, not to cast those burdens on people. I have done a lot of inner work in my life, through prayer, spiritual direction, and therapy and believe that true salvation is being made whole as the unique persons we are created to be, not to pretend to be something that we are not. We listen for God's guidance to tune in to our true identities. I have been blessed to be part of congregations who see their role as lifting up their brothers and sisters in the church, loving them into wholeness, instead of judging and shaming them. I want to continue being part of a church that loves like that.
Instead of saying "shame on you," what if every church said "Grace and peace to you!" And then lived in a way that showed that they meant it.