what’s next

I didn’t grow up in the United Methodist Church.

I made my way through young adulthood and into motherhood.  While we were far from home we happened into a United Methodist Church and there I found theological and heart home.

While attending seminary I was appointed to my first church.  I have been blessed (mostly!) to serve in United Methodist churches for twenty three years.

But all along I have felt the grinding wrongness of the United Methodist stance on full inclusion.

I organized regional conferences in Duluth and Minneapolis.  I twice spoke at the state capital during rallies organized by OutFront Minnesota.  I worked with colleagues in the Minnesota Annual Conference to speak out against the (anti) Marriage Amendment in MN and have worked for a day when all people are beheld as beloveds in all aspects of their beings.

I name the above because it helps me assuage my sense of complicity in the existence of an oppressive structure through which I receive benefit.

I cannot do that much longer, that assuaging.

The global church met in 2019 and came away a declared unsafe place for GLBTQI individuals, clergy, and allies.

No place is safe when core identity is perceived as suspect.

So what next?

I am a woman of 61 years.  I find myself exhausted by the grief of these days.

And yet, there is new life aborning.  Power is rising up from the too-long silenced and this power I seek to support.  A conference held here in Minneapolis called Our Movement Forward will center discussion of the future of the UM church in the community of People of Color, Queer and Transgender leaders.  I will go to this gathering as an ally.  I will go to this gathering to learn and to listen.

I serve a courageous church.  Christ UMC in Rochester is leaning into the questions and work of this time.  We own the grief and the opportunity of these days.  Together, we seek to offer welcome and hope in the way of Jesus.

Yesterday I was in the hospital room of a young mother.  We were gathered to celebrate her baptism.  Her young son held her as she received the sign of the cross on her forehead.

The song we shared before her baptism is one she loves:  We are a Gentle, Angry People, by Holly Near.

And so we are.  Gay and straight together, singing (and organizing and witnessing) for our lives.

hunger

I am far from home.

Today I was keenly hungry for worship in a United Methodist Church. Knowing that in my home church and in all United Methodist Churches across this world those who were struggling with the General Conference decision would be gathering, I wanted to be in solidarity.

And I needed a good word shared in the midst of connection.

Here is what I heard. I heard a brief note during ain’t-life-swell announcements about the General Conference and an acknowledgment that there were lots of opinions about the General Conference vote and, hey, people are always welcome at that church. Those of us gathered were assured that was so.

Really? Welcome?

Do not speak of welcome for all as though it is happening, truly, when baptized and called children of God are not welcome to preach or marry or be fully folded into community and you are not outraged.

There was no naming of pain. There was no seeming awareness that fluffing over injustice is to condone and perpetrate it.

None. Of. That.

I wanted to leave.

But in the front of the sanctuary was a table with the bread and cup on it and I had come so hungry and I was aware that this deep grief I was experiencing is part of the world I love and so I stayed because I so needed to be fed.

I stayed and prayed for Christ UMC and for all the churches who are doing hard soul and heart and advocacy work on this day. I stayed and tried to keep my heart soft toward the pastor who never once addressed the issue in his sermon. I stayed knowing that there are people who come to the church I serve who feel like they want to leave because of what I do or do not say.

I stayed.

And, I left hungry.

May we create communities through which tears and hungers and delights and questions and insistence upon the sacred beauty of each is celebrated.

No one is fully welcomed unless all are fully welcomed.

Truth.

power

I am in Sedona.  Finding places of power and being in them has been a theme of my renewal leave.

Yesterday the United Methodist Church wielded power in a way that slashes hearts.

After decades of wrangling over issues of full inclusion of GLBTQIA people of faith, the corporate body of the church had this to say:

No.  No, we will not ordain GLBTQIA children of God.  No, we will not allow our pastors to do same-gender weddings.  And, we are going to command your bishops to go after those clergy who won’t fall in line and your Boards of Ordained Ministry to be instruments of interrogation.

Thus said the General Conference.  By a slim margin.  With nearly half the voting body being from outside of the US.

There are so many admonitions written in scripture that the General Conference has determined are not bedrock mandate: Issues of women in leadership, divorce, not stoning our children who disobey.  Those kinds of things the church has determined literal interpretation of scripture is not to be.

It seems that love is just too terrifyingly powerful to “allow”.

It is nonsense.

The church cannot contain love.  The Body of Christ is called to support and celebrate love as sacred gift.  Love is hard work.  The church is meant to come alongside and empower people who have the courage to open their hearts to others. Jesus taught plenty about that.

There is snow melting in Sedona.

I know that hearts will melt, too.  I know that the movement will make its way into a way of being that claims, celebrates, and supports the glory of each of God’s createds living fully alive and celebrated in community.

But let’s be clear.  We are not a United Methodist Church.

We are a movement even now being pushed into new life.

It is time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mercy

I needed a word.

This morning, I heard the Word.

We are blessed in life with people who teach us the importance of leadership.  Pope Francis is such a one.  Pope Francis has spoken words that have sparked hope in such a way that the whole Christian movement is awakened to possibility.

One of Pope Francis’ admirers preached this morning.

Bishop Sally Dyck was one of my teachers.  She served as bishop in the Mn Annual Conference for eight years.  During her time in God’s country she provided me with a model for what it is to be a woman in leadership.

It was amplified grace that she preached so powerfully this morning at General Conference. Bishop Dyck preached about our shared need to live mercy together.

She wondered how it is we singularly call out homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching.  (That statement in itself is without mercy – my words, not hers).  To further compound the pain of that statement, the UM church is woefully silent about other things that are incompatible with Christian teaching – things like racism and gun violence and desecration of the earth and, well, you get her meaning.

We heard a word this morning at General Conference.  Thanks be to God.

I’m done with my time at General Conference.  I will go to a fundraiser tonight and thrill to the music of the Indigo Girls.  The concert is given to support the vision of full inclusion in the United Methodist Church.  It will be so good to be in a place where mercy is sung.  We need those words.

I will get on a plane at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning and happily resume my life.

And the work of the church will go on.  Legislation will be brought to the floor of General Conference next week.  We will learn more about the future of our United Methodist Church.

Pray for our delegates.  Pray for all who are gathered in Portland – the volunteers and protesters, the hopeful and the dispirited.  Pray for our bishop Bruce Ough.  Pray for the Good News Movement and pray for the too many who have been hurt by the language and silence of our church.

Mercy.

Let us pray and live mercy.

 

 

 

 

server

I was a really good waitress.

Every good waitress knows that the front of the house and the kitchen have to work in harmony together.  It is probably best that diners in fine restaurants are blissfully unaware of the heat and the unloveliness of the kitchen.  Good chefs make great meals.  Good waitresses serve up great meals while creating a sense that there is nothing but peace in the kitchen.

So now I am a parish pastor.  It is a job not unlike that of a waitress.  My desire is that people who worship at the church I serve can be undisturbed by the clank of the liturgical pots and pans that go into cooking up worship and life together.

I am glad I am in the front of the house in this ministry business.  Because truthfully, after three days of being at General Conference, I am not sure I ever want to enter the kitchen of the United Methodist movement again.

Today Rule 44 was defeated.  After hours of technical difficulties with voting apparatus and points of order and amendments and heart-felt testimony, it seems the people called Methodist are not willing to talk to each other.  We seem more inclined to talk at each other using Robert’s Rules as shield.

So it went.  I only wept once.

The rest of the day was spent in legislative committees.  That Book of Discipline that we turn to in the ordering of our life?  Every line of it is up for editing and polishing and so committees are digesting thousands of legislative petitions and after sitting on the floor of one of the break-out rooms (there was no room in the inn for the curious) I fled.

I admit it.  I got out of there.

It turns out I don’t have the stomach or heart for the work in the kitchen.  I am glad that others do.  I am glad that others can craft words that can somehow invite people to taste and see the goodness of our God.  I pray that inviting and inclusive and delicious words flow from this time.

As for me, I went out for ice cream.

Here is what I know.  I am blessed to serve a remarkable church in Rochester, MN.  My sense of doing church there is that the kitchen and the front of the house are all seeking to do the same thing:  we want to serve up grace to the hungry of soul.  I get to work with people who are huge of heart and excited by God’s stirring in our midst and I left the convention center today so grateful for my local church and my place in it.

Christ UMC in Rochester is where I am called to serve up the Body of Christ; in the midst of the hungry and the seeking and the hopeful.

I’m hoping I am still a good waitress.

 

well

“Everyone here is a child of God.  Hard stop.  Period.”  Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

We were gifted with a fine preach this morning.

We who gathered for 8:00 AM worship on day two of General Conference were the tired and the dispirited.  A new rule, number 44 by name, had been brought before the body as a way to participate in one of Wesley’s Means of Grace:  Holy Conferencing.  The gist of the rule was that Roberts Rules could be put aside while considering challenging issues.  Perhaps, given the clear challenge of discussing issues regarding sexuality (why is this so very hard???) people could speak heart to one another and learn from one another and allow for decision-making to be shaped by listening to one another.

This is clearly an uncomfortable notion.   It is clearly uncomfortable because Rule 44 is not being readily adopted.  Rather than agreeing to enter into holy discourse, the chains of protocol (Robert’s Rules rule) are being rattled and the Body is (thus far) bound.

Into that collective sense of “Is there no balm in Gilead?” Bishop Palmer rose to speak the Episcopal Address.

Oh my.

It felt to me that the Bishop was summoning the Spirit to blow grace through the gathered faithful. Bishop Palmer was prophetic and his words resonated with the same sort of deep sense of love and grief Jesus shared in his prayer in John 17: 23.  Jesus prays that the disciples might be one in order that they might bear witness to the miracle of God made flesh in the heart and teachings of Christ Jesus.

The quote above about everyone being a child of God was just one of the things that made me rejoice in the power of the Word preached through the prism of a heart broken open by grief.

We are those hearts, aren’t we?

Our hearts are broken, to be sure, but from such a laid-open place the sounding of the gospel gains urgency and power.

Jesus prays yet for us to live the legacy of love offered to us.

Conversation by conversation, shared heart by shared heart may we lay ourselves open to the wash of God’s grace.  Surely we have the courage to learn the hearts of others in order for us to become one in the Spirit.

“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Jesus said it.  We might try it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

here I am

I am at General Conference.  Every four years United Methodists from across the globe gather to remember who they are.  That’s the notion, anyway.

I am attending because the United Methodist Alliance for Transgender Inclusion made a scholarship available.  I applied.  I received a scholarship.

So here I am in Portland, Oregon.  I don’t have voice on the floor.  I don’t have much to do but be present to what is while I pray for what might be.

John Wesley spoke about the need for the people called Methodists to name the reality of differing opinions while holding a shared sense of grounding in the heart of Jesus.

The heart isn’t holding so well.  For decades the United Methodist Church has wrangled about issues around full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children of God.  Some harmful language has been codified into policy.  Barbed-wire proclamations regarding the seemliness of same gender love, the ordination of “self-avowed practicing” glbt clergy, and the prohibition given clergy around officiating at same gender marriages have cut deep into the souls of too many.

How long can hearts bleed?

Today I witnessed a public act that rang with historical power.  A woman who has blessed the church and served the church for decades has been denied ordination because she will not deny her God-given orientation nor will she deny the love she shares with her wife.  She was ordained in a non-traditional service held in the lobby where the conference is being held.  Her non-traditional ordination hearkens back to the roots of Methodism in the US.  Pastors were needed to go and teach and preach and bless.  There was need and there were not enough ordained pastors to meet the need so Wesley stepped outside the bonds of church polity to meet the needs of the many hungering to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

That hunger is real today.

What will happen at this General Conference is alive in the expansive, inclusive and broken-with-grief heart of Jesus.

So I am praying:  Come, Jesus, Come.  Show us how to love each other.