"The United Methodist Church is incompatible with Christian teaching."
"Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." -Confession and Pardon
These are my final thoughts I am having as I am laying next to my partner and preparing to sleep. We are two women, who love each other, and found love in mysterious ways. I am grateful for her, her life, her healing journey, and her light. The Methodist Church says this is wrong. That our love is wrong. As two formerly incarcerated individuals, the idea that there would be "mandatory penalities" in the United Methodist Church (me as clergy and not being able to be married) is appalling, harmful, triggering, and frightening. I'm glad we have a community that affirms us, so grateful for WES.
I've expressed hurt and anger for my colleagues and friends. Tonight, my heart aches (not strangely warmed) for the children of queer parents, for the families that are devastated, for those who are so exhausted and fatigued by this spiritual violence and assault. I'm so deeply saddened for my mother and father. I imagine that my Mom is still overcome with emotion. Even as her brother was struggling for his life, she took no time off of work so she could faithfully serve her church. This is the church she loves and has devoted her life too. Now she grieves for her brother and her church. None of her children are welcome or affirmed in the church that once held us as infants and taught us how to love and be on the front lines of justice.
On Thanksgiving 2005, I went with my friends to get a tattoo in Knoxville. I got my initials and the United Methodist cross and flame. I had the artist color the flame in UMC red and University of Tennessee orange. Many years later, the color has almost faded completely. How ironic. The light was extinguished for the United Methodists today. Jay Z talks about having to explain his actions to his children on his 4:44 album (who did what with who?) I am your child! Do you not see me? Am I no longer worthy of your love? If my partner and I have a child, how will we explain what happened this week? What will your do when your grandchildren ask you what you were doing when the church became a temple of hate?
Your "Confession and Pardon" recited during communion is insufficient. The flowery liturgy is empty and not enough. You, my dear church, have bankrupted the spiritual souls of many. You have become complicit in upholding and maintaining domination systems. You have allowed yourselves to be architects of hate. You have used the Bible, the UMC constitution, and the Book of Discipline as collective Weapons of Mass Destruction. Your WMDs have unleashed a war on queer folks whose impacts are felt like bombs being dropped over Baghdad and Hiroshima. The actions (and inactions) of this Special General Conference will impact us for generations to come.
Methodist clergy and laity: It is not enough to offer your "thoughts and prayers." STOP. Please stop telling us to "be encouraged." This is YOUR work to do. Please do not say, "you are welcome at my church." Please do not think that preaching on sermon this Sunday is enough. Please do not think talking about "this issue" over the course of the next week is enough.
Dr. King called us to action. Our ancestors, Spirit guides, and friends on the journey were willing to put everything on the line for the pursuit of justice. Are you? Are you willing to put your credentials on the line? The comforts of your salaries and housing allowances on the line? Your pensions on the line?
How long must we wait? How much more pain and violence are you willing to witness? Are you willing to stand on the sidelines? It is time for an end to this complicit behavior and complacency. There should be a deep dis-ease in your spirits tonight and a deep troubling in your souls. "It is time to speak NOW remembering, you were never meant to survive." They came for us tonight (and have been for many dark nights), and many of you did and said nothing. Social media posts are not enough. We have seen this happen time and time again. Know that if and since they came for us, it is only a matter of time before they come for you. And who will then be there to speak (and tweet) on your behalf?
Years ago those clergymen wrote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many of those men who penned that letter were Methodists. The issues and culture of hate and intolerance did not disappear from those areas of the country and those families. The targets of their hatred found a new home: our queer community. King warned us of the dangers of white moderates and liberals. Decades later moderates and liberals of all hours and backgrounds continue to be complicit in the shattering of dreams and the lives of the oppressed and dispossessed. Yet, these same moderates and liberals march every year in remembrance of Dr. King. This is incompatible with Christian teaching and Wesleyan values. It lacks integrity.
Bystanders are enemies of justice. Silence is the preferred language of the oppressor. Inaction is a tool of the oppressor. Acting like it's "business as usual" means you do not believe the words of Jesus of Nazareth when he said, simply: love your neighbors as yourselves.
Be full of that spirit that warmed Wesley's heart. Remember how terrifying it must have been to be sharing words of freedom and liberation to prisoners outside of those English jail cells. Remember the roots of this faith you call Methodist. Remember the Methodist movement was a revolutionary movement.
Be bold. Be courageous.