A Hope and Sadness (Tempered).


As General Conference of the UMC comes to an end, the best sense of where we are as a church seems best to be described as “hope and sadness – tempered.”   I have seen and heard a large number of fellow UMs possessing such a great passion to be that church that becomes the face of Jesus to our world by practicing radical and transformative inclusionary love, that I know deep down that my children will not inherit the same United Methodist Church that I serve within.    They will one day have that church of radical love.    The example of so many in Tampa goes to attest to that fact. 

(I offer my thanksgiving to them)

At the same time, I also am sad.    A piece of my heart has been broken yet again.    I think of the many friends and fellow faithful who have been hurt and continue to be hurt by many policies of the church.   Although I celebrate the signs and celebration of repentance shared during this conference for the very real hurts the church has caused in the past (with Native Americans, Women, and Race), I cant help but interpret those moments with a hint of irony.

Repentance is a ” an admission of guilt a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.”  Is it truly repentance if we resolve but dont change?    I wonder how old my children will be, when the church has an evening of repentance for the injustice of  we shared under the banner of United Methodism today.   It is sadness that many will erroneously point to us – as leaders of the church – as ask why we were so broken or why we could allow it to happen.

Will the see our indecision as a reason to turn away?   Will they see our unwillingness to talk as yet another reason for leaving our faith?   Will they be scarred by our inaction?   Will they – or their children – feel that there is no place or pew for them?  Although we can celebrate the diversity of views, theology, and biblical understanding, why do we find it so hard to just simply talk?  Why is holy conversation so hard?

In the end, one day my kids will have to justify, explain, or rationalize my action or inaction today.    I hope that my children will know that their father was a proud and strong Christian, a faithful student of Wesleyan theology, and a man who loved his church passionately and with great conviction.   

I also pray that my children will know that my God and my Jesus is one of LOVE (capital LOVE intended!).  They will know that Daddy never looked at another man or woman and saw brokeness first and foremost, but rather saw the face of God staring back.  The will know that Daddy made a practice of embracing whole and full LOVE of his neighbor, as opposed to hiding behind the powers and principalities of politics, nationalism, or silly catch phrases such as “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” 

My girls will know, because I will continue to stand up, stand alongside, stand for, stand with, and stand before those who are hurt or marginalized by society and/or the church.    I do so as my own act of repentance.   I do so because of who I know Jesus to be.    They will know because I will continue to stand with those like Mark.  I will “Stand, because we…And I…can do a lot better.” (emphasis mine).

The following is an article from UM Insight, a General Conference educational project of St. Stephens UMC.

Love Your Neighbor Campaign Urges UMC to “Stand With Mark”

After forty years of the exclusionary policies, the General Conference conducted only one hour of “holy conversation” on the subject of the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people on first day of the General Conference. Many people reported experiencing hurtful words during these “holy conversations.” Members of the coalition working for full inclusion set the tone for the coming week by speaking out against demeaning words and actions against LGBT people.

During the Thursday evening plenary, Mark Miller, a delegate and openly gay man, brought the concerns of the coalition before the General Conference. As he rose to speak, allied delegates began to gather around as a visible sign of support.

 The following is the text of Miller’s witness:

As an elected, credentialed member of this General Conference, I am offering my voice to say that the attempt at Holy Conversation about Human Sexuality yesterday was incomplete. The process failed because of a lack of leadership and oversight. It failed because there wasn’t any careful preparation that really respects people and takes this work seriously.

So we are standing as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender delegates. Yesterday the United Methodist Church did us harm. When we are harmed, the church is harmed. We serve at every level of the church though no one will admit it. We were bullied, emotionally, spiritually and physically. And no one did anything. We were harmed by the lack of leadership by the bishops. We abide by Wesley’s rule of Do No Harm and that rule was broken.

We are standing because we’re not going to wait for broken promises to fix themselves. We’ve learned that in this church waiting doesn’t work. So now we’re being proactive. It’s time for this church to live our resurrection faith. And I know that there are others delegates who are GLBT and delegates who have family members and colleagues who are GLBT. We invite you to stand with us at this moment. All means all. Stand. Stand, because we can do a lot better.

At Mark’s invitation, those in the audience stood at their seats. The Presiding Bishop ruled Mark’s witness out of order. His words generated a “Stand with Mark” campaign which quickly went viral on Twitter (#standwithmark). The comments on Twitter supported both Mark, and called for the United Methodist Church to oppose bullying words and actions.

In the closing worship healing service, Bishop Robert Hoshibata preached on “Love Heals.” He reported that he wanted “the church to include all, whomever they love.” Supporters for full inclusion left worship early to stand in silent protest. According to one witness, there were over 200 people standing in silent vigil outside worship. Delegates walked past the demonstration, a visible reminder that LGBT people are still an active part of the church, despite exclusionary policies.

***

For more information on the history of this discussion within the UMC, the following link is a great primer.  http://um-insight.net/articles/will-the-umc-say-%27i-do%27/  This is also the same source of the article above.   The chalice is the one broken (to symbolize broken communion) at the Pittsburg General Conference, and reassembled as a sign of the desire for healing and one of the greatest artifacts of the contemporary UMC.  (Mark DuBose of the UM News Service)

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