A parishioner sent me an email today. She encouraged me to hold fast to one of the many stones I brought home from the island of Iona. During the turmoil of these days, while the earth is rumbling, waves decimating, and social fabric rending, she suggested that I carry with me always the hum of that holy place.
Icons are gift. They are visual and physical reminders that every place and time in which we find ourselves is holy. We travel no road unaccompanied. There is in all things the breath of the Holy.
I know that she speaks strong and gentle good. In this morning’s Star Tribune is an article speaking earth shake of sorts for the United Methodist church. In the crumble that was once one of our most vibrant churches, one of our pastors is insisting that new life can and will be born through willful disobedience. Serving as he does in a movement that specifically prohibits clergy from blessing same gender relationships based on the denomination’s statement that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching”, the Rev. Greg Renstrom has stated that blessing “responsible, mutually respectful and reverent relationship” is a natural expression of pastoral care for all of God’s children. Serving as he does a congregation intentionally seeking to reach out to GLBT folk, pastoral care naturally includes the support and nurture of loving same-gender relationships.
It is a provocative proclamation. It is a calling out in a movement founded on the inclusive teachings of Jesus.
We are a global connection, we United Methodists. Our polity is crafted at quadrennial meetings. We are a representational body; meaning there are persons sent to General Conference based upon the numbers of United Methodists in their region. Larger numbers in more conservative regions – in the Southern United States and in Africa – means more votes. Based upon numbers, some Annual Conferences send many representatives.
Some send precious few. Minnesota will send three lay and three clergy representatives in 2012.
How to impact global policy for inclusion when the task feels Herculean? How to shape a fully inclusive church when it feels crazy-making that it would be anything but?
The Rev. Greg Renstrom has said he will wait no longer, even though it means he may lose his standing in a denomination he has served for decades.
I am washed with compassion for him, for the too many who have been told that in the name of the church, blessing is withheld. I am washed with compassion for our Bishop, who is charged with overseeing the living of UM polity in Minnesota regardless of her personal and pastoral convictions, and I am washed with compassion for the ache of the Holy that in the swirl and need that is living in these days, so much energy gets funnelled into policing bestowal of blessing.
So the presence of Iona will bless me in these days. The wind of the Spirit is blowing.
We are held. We are believed in. We are movement.