Amen and awoman

A United Methodist Clergywoman on that “Amen and A-woman” Interfaith Prayer

UMVoices on January 7, 2021

Rev. Blossom Matthews is a United Methodist elder serving in the New Mexico Conference, where she serves on conference staff and co-pastors with her husband, Rev. Nick Matthews. Blossom served on the Board of Ordained Ministry and as the Chair of the Order of Elders for eight years in the NWTX Conference. 

She originally posted the following on Facebook, and it is reposted here with permission. 

UM Voices is a forum for different voices within the United Methodist Church on pressing issues of denominational and/or social concern. UM Voices contributors represent only themselves and not IRD/UMAction

Quite a few clergy colleagues are sharing articles detailing Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s opening prayer for the 117th Congress. Given that this is more about theology than politics, I feel comfortable speaking to it.

First, I will note that Emanuel Cleaver is an ordained United Methodist minister (as am I), as well as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. I do not personally know Rev. Cleaver, but I expect that he is a kind man whom I would be honored to call a friend. Because he is an ordained United Methodist minister, however, I will speak to his spiritual and theological leadership demonstrated in prayer, not to his personhood or character.

The aspect of this prayer which has caught most people’s attention is that Cleaver ended the prayer with “Amen and A-woman.” Most everyone knows that Amen is not a gendered term (it means “so be it” or “this is true” in Hebrew). Cleaver later clarified that he intended to recognize the record number of women serving in Congress, as well as to celebrate the first female Chaplain of the House of Representatives. This is indeed noteworthy, and I trust that it was Cleaver’s intention to celebrate these women’s accomplishments. However, it seems that Cleaver, in trying to be clever, actually drew attention away from God and focused the attention on his own wit. This is not the role of prayer.

Interestingly, this story is coming out after a committee proposed changes in house rules to “honour all gender identities,” and eliminate gendered words like “mother,” “father,” “he,” and “she” in favour of gender-neutral terms.” In a strange way, Cleaver’s attempt to honor the achievements of women actually contradicts the focus on *removing* gendered terminology.

Let’s talk about that for a moment. When I was a little girl, I remember hearing the suggestion that gender-neutral terms should be used for words such as “chairman” or “fireman.” I thought it was silly at the time, but once I grew up, I realized that I didn’t want to be referred to as a man! I doubt that I will ever be a firefighter, but I have served as a chairperson! There are times when gender neutral language is appropriate.

However, this does not mean that we need to neuter the concept of gender altogether. Gender is a gift of God. Both men and women are created in God’s image (Btw, if you were raised with oppressive gender stereotypes, check out Christian egalitarianism for a breath of fresh air.)

To dismiss the concept of gender altogether stirs up a theological hornet’s nest. I understand that some will disagree with me here. I’m ok with that, and hope that we can all be respectful towards one another in our differences. But I would encourage those who are Christian to consider what Scripture says about the creation of men and women. Part of honoring God’s creation means that we honor gender.

Still, what concerns me most about the prayer in Congress is that Cleaver prayed “in the name of the monotheistic god Brahma.” In a very odd choice of words, he chose to reference a Hindu God. Cleaver could have offered a neutral closing, but he instead prayed to a Hindu God.

United Methodist theology is Christian. We are not universalists or pluralists. We love and respect people who believe differently, but we do not compromise centuries of Christian theology in order to do so.

United Methodist theology does not teach that there are many gods or many ways to salvation. United Methodist theology is centered in Jesus the Christ. Read John Wesley’s sermons. Read our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith in the UM Book of Discipline.

Dear friends, I realize that this post is (sadly) controversial. But I will stand for the truth that, as a Christian, I worship the God described in the Old and New Testaments, and I truly believe that Jesus is Lord. And as an ordained United Methodist clergy, this is what I teach and preach.

  1. Comment by Tracy on January 8, 2021 at 10:53 am

    An embarrassment for all Christians. We cannot separate soon enough! Too many so called liberal methodists are methodist in name only, they do not recognize the Bible as God’s Word. They only recognize the secular view and their own agenda. He is NO pastor, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  2. Comment by Ellard Lee Jensen on January 8, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    It is basically a god of their own conception that such people as Cleaver wants himself and others to believe.

    Romans 1: 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
    23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

  3. Comment by April User on January 8, 2021 at 10:18 pm

    When archeologists dig through the UMC archives in the distant future, they’ll find artifacts of other gods mixed in with the Christian God. How tragic.

  4. Comment by Brother Thom on January 9, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    This is a very good read, sadly not enough United Methodist clergy will ever read it. Too many bishops, district superintendents, and pastors have given up orthodox Christianity in favor of being appealing. We live in an age where denominations have literally cut of their noses, to spite their faces.

    The UMC learned nothing from the denominations that split over same-sex weddings and gay clergy before them. Progressive bishops were willing to split a major denomination to appease 4.5% of the population. The book of discipline makes it very clear in its current edition that gays are welcome in the UMC. But progressive bishop after bishop has gone on record saying “we need to be welcoming of all God’s children.” The statement is intended to make the public, congregations, and the gay community think that the current construct is unwelcoming, when they know they are playing on words and emotions. The fact is that the UMC is welcoming of gays, and the book of discipline prohibits gay clergy and same-sex weddings is another fact, although overlooked (Google Bishop Karen Oliveto).

    Now those two prohibitions are certainly viewed by gays as unwelcoming, but we need to be careful how we frame these statements on welcoming and unwelcoming. The UMC most certainly will split this year, and as I predicted and wrote about over the past two years, progressives will be left holding an empty bag. When I suggested two years ago that the UMC should establish a branch of the denomination that catered to the LGBTQIA+ community, I was scoffed at for being divisive. But, look at where we are today, traditionalist will take their 25 million and run, and guess what the LGBTQIA+ community progressives were willing to break with church law for, and ordain gay clergy in violation of the discipline, have taken all of their friends and formed the Liberation Methodist Connexion (www.thelmx.org).

    So what happened? Well, in my estimation the LGBTIA+ community was taking notes the past several years, and when it comes to being faithful to a denomination, the progressives demonstrated they will break with church law when and where they desire. There is very little trust in a group who can’t live by rules, we all learned that on the playground as kids.

    Progressives are already back-peddling and trying to assure traditionalist pastors and congregants that there will be a place for them in the new UMC. What progressives are really saying is there is a place for your tithes and apportionments in a new UMC. Reading between the lines is the unwritten chapter in the discipline of the new UMC.

  5. Comment by Sondra Andersen on January 25, 2021 at 5:01 pm

    Amen to those sticking to God’s word and for the exclusivity of “no one can come to the Father except by me”. Jesus welcomes “anyone” upon asking forgive of one’s sins; and immediately, the Holy Spirit responds to Jesus by making Himself available to the believer. Yea God…You remain the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
    In awe of Him,
    Sondra and Dick Andersen

  6. Comment by Agunloye Emmanuel on January 26, 2021 at 2:32 pm

    “Cleaver, in trying to be clever, actually drew attention away from God and focused the attention on his own wit. This is not the role of prayer.”
    What is Brama or Hindus got to do with Christianity?
    We are already in trouble. I just feared for our growing children.

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