I have tried for two weeks to write about the recent General Conference of The United Methodist Church. I started to write in the weeks leading up to the conference about my hopes and dreams for our church, for our shared ministry, and for our celebration of and praise of a mighty and compassionate God. I wrote and erased so many posts that I gave up. My dreams were too big and my wishes too bold. I dared not write them down. Every time I did it scared me too much to post them.
In the first week of the General Conference I tried again as I saw amazingly blessed worship and an international church come together in praise of God. I was stunned by the visioning and hope many delegates came with. And I relished the stories they told about church growth, vital ministry, and stunning outreach. It moved my heart and soul. Then holy conferencing on the issue of sexuality sent many into a tailspin as some GLBT folks were bullied, intimidated and called names during a time when real conversations were supposed to be happening. And I sat as no words would come.
I tried again after a good friend, Mark Miller, was silenced on the floor of the conference when he tried to speak about the bullying. He was allowed to speak about some of the pain and the bishop prayed but he was still silenced. I stood with Mark in the middle of my living room. My ranting words were good for me to let loose but too much to share with others. I wept for my church. And no post came.
But I found myself once again attempting to write after only 56% of my church’s delegates voted that God’s love is available to all persons. Why only 56%? Because they thought it was a slippery slope to accepting persons they believe are incompatible with Christian teachings. (“They” will continue to say it is the practice of homosexuality that is incompatible but in truth they are condemning the very being of the GLBT members of our denomination). That post was deleted as well.
I saw some hope in the legislative committee work over the weekend session and when a promised amendment to be presented on the floor was trying at the very least to get the church to acknowledge we are not all in agreement with the United Methodist stance on homosexuality. I had some renewed hope and a sense of reserved joy. That was dashed when some of the delegates instead spoke of bestiality and stoning of GLBT folks in the UMC from the floor. The petition failed – as it has before. That post never even made it onto the computer screen.
I tried to write after GLBT advocates entered the bar of the conference to witness to their own and others’ exclusion and to attempt to keep any more harm from happening on the floor of the conference. But my tears blurred the screen and I could not find the words.
I once again made a valiant effort after the plan to restructure our church and work together for a renewed future for our denomination failed in committee, was resurrected and remade into PlanUMC, was adopted on the floor, and then was ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. We were back to square one with no plan and little time until the end of the conference. But Bishop Goodpaster reminded us we still have a structure in the 2008 Book of Discipline and he said it better than I could.
So Sunday morning I got up and went to my UMC/UCC federated congregation in Chestnut Hill, PA. It is a reconciling, affirming, anti-racist, environmentally active, advocacy-centered congregation that worships like no other church I have ever been part of. I realized once again that the theology of my church – The United Methodist Church – is one of grace and love. And it is lived out in this church in amazingly vivid ways.
|A feast at my wonderful church.|
But I am angry and hurt. I was born into the UMC – I am a cradle Methodist. My father is a UM pastor and I have a Methodist pastor in every generation back several generations. I have an ancestor who was ordained by Francis Asbury. I have lived and bled Wesleyan theology since birth. But I am disappointed and angry. And I am unsure what comes next for my church … and that makes me sadder than I have been in a very long time.
In the meantime I will continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ as passionately as I can. I will continue to share my faith with others and bring the gospel to those who have not heard it before or who have had a bad experience with the church previously. I will continue to advocate for full inclusion of all persons. I will continue to teach my students to love the church – but to love their passion for transforming lives more. I will continue to prepare candidates for ministry in the UMC by teaching them the history, doctrine and polity of our church. I will continue to work around the corner and around the world to bring about an end to gun violence, racism, sexism, domestic violence, poverty, homophobia, inequality and other injustices. I will continue to hope and work for a church that lives the gospel – fully and completely.
And I will continue to pray for my church, for all who are hurt and are impacted by the decisions of the last few weeks at General Conference – on all sides of these issues. And I ask you to please pray for our church, for all who hurt, and for all who are impacted by these decisions.