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Bishop Swenson preaches difficult text at difficult time

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  • U.M. Cornet
    CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE The video of this sermon is online at http://www.gc2000.org May 12, 2000 GC-070 Bishop Swenson preaches difficult text at
    Message 1 of 1 , May 12, 2000
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      The video of this sermon is online at http://www.gc2000.org

      May 12, 2000 GC-070
      Bishop Swenson preaches difficult text at difficult time

      CLEVELAND (UMNS) � United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson stepped to the
      podium at General Conference on May 12 with a difficult task: After two days
      of protests against the church � actions in which she took part -- she came
      to preach a Bible lesson on violence and separation.

      "There was a lot pain and hurt yesterday, something that I really wanted to
      speak to, especially since it is our last day together," Swenson said. "But
      here I have this text where Jesus says, �Think not that I have come to bring
      peace; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.�"

      About 30 people were arrested at the Cleveland Convention Center on May 11
      after protesting the General Conference�s reaffirmation of its rules against
      homosexuality. The United Methodist Church�s top legislative body upheld its
      official stand that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with
      Christian teaching.

      Swenson, who leads the church�s Denver Area, was not among those arrested,
      but she participated in a rally and march May 10 in support of changing the
      denomination�s position. Four years earlier, at the 1996 General Conference,
      she was one of the 15 "dissenting bishops" who signed a declaration opposing
      the church�s policy.

      In her sermon on Matthew 10:34, Swenson introduced the sword as an image of
      separation and clarity, of decisiveness about purpose. "I wanted to use the
      image to �cut through� all of the stuff that keeps us from doing what we are
      supposed to do as the church."

      Swenson spoke of her frustration with institutional matters. She said that
      this was the source of her pledge for the last year to spend 1,000 hours of
      direct, hands-on service with homeless people and low-income children in her
      area. The delegates responded with applause.

      Using the idea of the sword "cutting to the core of our purpose," she talked
      about the "center and the edge," and her desire to "bring the edge to the
      center, to bring those at the margin to the core of our purpose."

      Swenson tempered her usually exuberant style to match the subdued feelings
      in the auditorium after the previous day�s events. Representatives of the
      Western states � who largely support her position � told her the night
      before that the worship service should begin a time of healing.

      "We need to hear the gospel, Bishop!" several members said. When she told
      them the Scripture lesson, a groan went up from the group. Several said, "We
      will be praying for you."

      Swenson�s sermon was interrupted several times by applause. Repeating the
      words of the lesson, she talked about the sword defining the line between
      the past and the future. She closed her remarks noting that the edge of the
      sword can cut an opening into something new for the church and the world.

      "If we follow this Jesus, can we carry this sword?" she asked. " ... Go
      then, with the sword of clarity, of purpose, of leadership, of change and of

      # # #

      --Gary Keene

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