The first thing you should do when moving from one area of ministry to another is count to forty. Before entering into his ministry, Jesus spent forty days in prayer and fasting in the wilderness. He set an example for us. Forty, throughout the Bible, is the number associated with making a transition in a spiritual fashion. When Noah and his family were baptized into a new world, it rained for forty days. When the people of God walked towards the promised land, their GPS said ‘recalculating’ for forty years. When the people of Nineveh were facing certain destruction, a period of forty days was given to them for repentance and prayerful preparation.
The Supreme Court’s action yesterday to rule Federal definitions of marriage unconstitutional has profound implications for every American congregation, and especially those who are small fellowships and/or members of the United Methodist Denomination. The United Methodist Church has a General Conference rule -- in a sense a “Federal act” -- threatening those clergy who officiate in gay marriages and civil unions with the defrocking. The word “officiate” is not too well defined and in local circumstances can be extended to mean participation or recognition. I found the wording that Justice Kennedy used to explain the court’s action profound: