I want to take some time to talk about General Conference. I imagine many of you have heard about the results of General Conference and if you are like me your heart is grieved. The result was to maintain the hurtful language and policy about the church’s relationship with the LGBTQI community but in addition to preserving a policy of only partial rights for those members in the church, specifically that they have no right to marry or be ordained, the actions also support increased penalties for clergy and bishops who don’t conform to the policy.
This is a step backwards at a time when we had hoped to step forward as a denomination. When I got the news of the conference’s result I was distraught and ashamed, and honestly my first reaction was to submit my request for retirement because I felt like I just couldn’t be part of this denomination any more.
But then I got a call and then an email from my daughter, who, even more than me, is effected by this decision. She sent the email to four clergy who after the vote texted her with tears and apologies. I believe her wise voice speaks better to us today than my words ever could. While excerpts of this email was written to a handful of clergy I hope you can hear her speaking to you.
So, on this night after the General Conference vote, I really feel God telling me to share what is on my mind with you. I know you are all mad and fed up and may even be feeling done with the UMC. I don’t disagree that this is a big problem and that it is very hurtful. I’ve married Liz twice now and neither time could I marry her in the church I have been devoted to for 32 years. That stings.
I can’t get this thought out of my head. If I had no motherly Reverend connections to the United Methodist Church, no history with the Methodist Church and I walked into you churches, not knowing you at all, feeling scared, feeling lost and I LISTENED to YOU and I was WELCOMED by YOU, WOW would I feel safe. WOW would I feel accepted.
Ignorance is best beat by education. And if we create churches and congregations that are open, welcoming and loving to people of all walks of life, and we make those people feel safe inside our walls, don’t we ultimately win? And you are all already doing that. I think that is more meaningful than anything else. Our denomination is failing miserably right now, it will one day be an embarrassing part of our history but it will be history. But I can’t help but think and be more scared about our future if we lose you within our churches
If we jump then the people that are pushing us get the final say. And none of you are the type to let that happen. If we jump off the ship then the opposition gets exactly what they want.
So here is your “come to Jesus” moment brought to you by a P.K. We don’t know when we will get through this particular obstacle but we will. And for God’s sake, will you all STOP beating yourselves up for this particular vote in this particular year, please! You are examples of why the opposing side should be fearful because you are the people who stand up and speak of truth, and love, and acceptance and all of the things the opposing side fears. Through your power and your love, others will love. So stop apologizing and simply do not give up! I know I am not incompatible with the teachings of Jesus Christ, I know that I am loved by God, I know I am worthy of God’s love, in fact, tonight I feel stronger in my faith than I have in a long time. This vote failing is not your fault, it is the fault of the people who voted against accepting and loving all others. And those are the people that will have to face God one day and explain why they fought against His teachings and His lessons.
A retired clergyman posted on Facebook this afternoon essentially how ashamed and angry he was that the denomination he gave his service to for so many years did this. He right there on social media jumped off the ship and proclaimed that as of Sunday he was going to the UCC now. That honestly angered me more than the vote failing did. He gave in right then and there and gave the opposition exactly what they want, one less voice. Earlier, I ALMOST said, “it was my denomination that failed me….” but then I stopped and thought about it for another minute. And it’s not. A lot of people agree with us, a lot of people believe in a better future in our denomination that includes so many more. A lot of people were hurt, saddened and frustrated by today’s vote. We aren’t alone. We just didn’t have the most votes this time around. It doesn’t mean we never will, but we didn’t today.
As long as I have leadership inside my church who accept me, who love me, who support me, who do all of those things for my family (especially my children) then I will not give up, I will continue to show up regardless of what some people vote on. The denomination does not get to tell me if I am worthy of God’s love just because I am a big ol’ butch lezbo, I already know my answer because Jesus gave me my answer and I learned that through strong leaders like you who I get the privilege and the blessing of having in my life.
I think we are stronger together. I think we all are in each other’s lives for a reason. I know you all feel raw right now and tired right now and it’s hard to have hope right now but we can’t lose sight of that. We may have some people that are causing us to wander through the desert instead of simply listening to God’s direction but that doesn’t mean we won’t eventually get to where we are meant to be.
Finally, good night! Tomorrow is a new day!
The decision of General Conference is not final. It now goes to the Judicial Council, which is like our version of the Supreme Court. There are questions about the constitutionality of the Conference’s decision and it’s possible that it may be struck down. Even so the language is maintained until the next General Conference, where it will again be brought up for change. And if it doesn’t happen then it will be brought up at the following General Conference. I will continue to be a part of this denomination because I have work to do.
written March 1, 2019, shared in worship March 3, 2019