This call to witness my faith journey, to and beyond the point of signing the CORNET Statement of Commitment to be willing to respond to all pastoral needs and desires, including for "holy union," coincides gracefully with the 30th anniversary of my call to seminary. That call became my call to confession of Jesus Christ to be my personal Savior and Lord (whom I name also Liberator and Leader of my life) as a 25 year-old seminary student kneeling for confirmation on the hard wooden floor of a tiny urban church of mixed and joyful followers of Jesus, called "Parish of the Holy Covenant UMC" in Chicago.
Together the congregation practiced a range of covenanted commitments to active, intentional, accountable, albeit grace-filled, membership, in that local church, in The United Methodist Church, in the whole Church of Jesus Christ, in all of the People of Faith in God, and in the Creation itself. From my current base as a clergy member of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, I fully and gently but firmly intend to honor those same commitments all the days of my life.
That call to Christ through the local church, in turn, gave birth and growth to my call to the ordained ministry of The United Methodist Church, a real choice for me, as I was not raised in it, nor in any specific religious tradition. My call to seminary really was at the same time a call to any self-conscious faith, and faithfulness, at all! That local church took its role in the process of setting aside some for ordination so seriously as to tempt me to take a full seven (of eight available) years to complete that process, finally convinced by a counseling elder that to receive the gift of full orders and to live orders out in such a way as someday might confront me with the decision to give them up, for what I believed, or for how I acted on what I believed, to be the Spirit of God in my life, would prove more faithful than never to be fully ordained at all.
Every preaching occasion, every teaching occasion, every occasion of worship, of prayer, of witness, of service, of action, since then I have hoped to remind myself (from Wesley's Covenant Prayer) to "fully and heartily yield all things" to Christ, and to him crucified and risen! Of course, the events that called me, and Julie, graciously, with me, 30 years ago, from Peace Corps experience in southeastern Turkey, and from three-room schoolhouse-teaching in northern Michigan, were the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and the smoldering agony of the cities, a death and an agony, perhaps a crucifixion and a resurrection, in process, that have proved, again and again, fearfully wondrous to us, as they have shaped our life and our work together, as adoptive and biological parents (to one child we have learned, again graciously, to be gay) and now as grandparents, as pastor and family to inner-city congregations for 20 years in Chicago and four years in Fresno, and as laos, as laborers in the vineyard of a new creation, even now coming into being, for all of God's children, for all of God's creatures.
Faithfulness to the vision of Dr. King's "Beloved Community," the unfinished business of the "Poor People's Campaign," and eternal hope in the "Resurrection City," the new Jerusalem, have kept us going all these years. The call to life in faith as a Jubilee celebration of ever-new beginnings, in grace, which is in forgiveness, of conditions of mind, body, spirit, and relationship, has made us more and more richly appreciative of, and receptive to, the infinite creativity of our amazing God, and the utter diversity, the indescribable difference, of each of us in our own precious God-createdness.
We are so thankful for the Christ who says, in effect, "Let the children come, let ALL the children come," and for the Spirit who just keeps on opening us to one another, in love, and leading us into covenants of many kinds with one another, covenants simply unkeepable by the letter of any law, but only sustainable, only renewable, even only endurable, by the pure grace of that same Spirit, whom God sends on Pentecost, in Jubilee, to keep on revealing the law in new ways, for all of the people, for all of the time. Thank you for this opportunity.
Faithfully, John Auer
Cal-Nevada Annual Conference
April 10, 1998