By Anne Marie Gerhardt
May 13, 2016 | PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS)
Pope Francis has been inspiring Bishop Sally Dyck. No, she isn’t converting to Catholicism, but she says the Pope’s announcement that a year of mercy would begin this past Advent is both compelling and inspirational.
“He said ‘Go and do mercy in all the places that you are’ to every Catholic,” the Chicago Episcopal Area bishop said in her sermon during the May 13 General Conference morning worship. “I want to be part of a church that has a year of mercy, a decade of mercy, a millennium of mercy.”
Dyck used Matthew 9:9-13, the story of the Pharisees questioning how Jesus could eat with tax collectors and sinners, as her text.
“Jesus knew that the Pharisees believed that the tax collectors were incompatible with good Jews,” said Dyck. “And Jesus said to the Pharisees to go, learn mercy.”
As United Methodists, Dyck says we have one category of humanity that we declare to be incompatible with Christian teachings, referring to the Book of Discipline on the practice of homosexuality.
“When I read this Gospel story (in Matthew), all I can say is that seems incompatible with Christian teaching,” said Dyck. “I do not believe LGBTQ people are any more sinful that I am, but I know that not all of you think the same way.”
Incompatible with Christian teaching
Dyck said she looked into her own life for who she would be tempted to say is incompatible with Christian teaching and shared a painful and personal family tragedy. A few years back, she shared one of her family members killed another family member and then killed himself.
“I can’t begin to describe for you the loss, the grief and the wake of destruction that murder has caused in my family,” she said. “But I am not alone.”
Dyck lives in Chicago, where so far this year, gun violence has caused 1,200 shootings and 800 deaths. On Palm Sunday weekend, she joined others in praying for no shooting deaths over Easter. It was a rare occurrence that there were none. This past Mother’s Day weekend, there were 50 shootings and eight deaths.
“We organize ministry around these murders because we open the doors of our churches so children can find a place to be safe and not [get] shot on their front porch,” she said referring to United Methodist churches which participate in the Safe Haven program with the Chicago Public Schools.
“Murder – that’s not incompatible with Christian teaching?” said Dyck.
Dyck raised another question. “Why is racism not declared incompatible with Christian teaching?”
“I’m a white person. You may have noticed that race is one of the first things we notice in other people,” she said. “It’s how I relate to the world and how the world relates to me.”
Dyck said the church is structured on racism and wondered why racism isn’t declared incompatible with Christian teaching.
“Because it might make us have different conversations? It might cause us to have different kinds [of] petitions? It might make all of us look at ourselves a little bit differently? It might be a challenge to our privilege?” said Dyck.
The point, she said, is not to add to the list of incompatibilities, but for the church to go with mercy. “I don’t feel like it’s a rally call. It’s a prayer, a plea. I want to be part of a church that’s willing to go … learn … mercy. What part of ‘go’ don’t we get?”
To watch Dyck’s entire sermon, go to: www.youtube.com/user/UMCVideos.
Gerhardt is director of communications for the Northern Illinois Conference.