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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

holy wholeness

I am praying this week.

I am praying for the hearts of United Methodists to be strangely and profoundly warmed.

The notion about living with a strangely warmed heart comes from the experience of John Wesley. Wesley lived for decades as pastor and child of God without a clear sense of his full welcome into God’s embrace.

Through a heart warming experience, Wesley came to know the power of holy wholeness.

That heart warming brought Wesley and the movement now called United Methodism alive.

It has brought me and so many alive, this astounding good news that we are beloved, known, and made one with God’s heart.

United Methodists from around the globe are gathering in St Louis this weekend. They are gathering for a specially called conference. At the conference delegates will engage with each other and with the Holy Spirit to determine the future of the movement sparked by a man who knew what it was to feel doubtful about being fully welcomed into God’s grace.

United Methodists have been wrangling around this issue for decades. Countless hours, resources, passion and energy have been poured into how it is the people of Jesus the Christ are called to discipleship in the company of all.

There are plans being presented, talk of schism being bandied about and hearts feeling exhausted and near broken by the continued insistence on the part of some that GLBTQ children of God are blessed and beloved; well, kind of. Sort of. Not really.

Legions of others are fully exhausted by the continued profanity of exclusion currently articulated in our Discipline. The thought of another “not yet” in regards to living congruency with the gospel is unbearable.

So I am praying.

I am praying for the delegates and the bishops.

I am praying for the children I have baptized. I want them to grow up in a community of faith that welcomes them wildly and gratefully, with all varieties of being celebrated as God gift.

I am praying for the too many who have felt unwelcome by the people of Jesus.

I am praying for colleagues who have been mandated by our current disciple to closet living. My heart cannot go too near the cost of practicing subterfuge around holy relationships.

I am praying for my church: The United Methodist Church and the church I am appointed to serve. Both are full of people who have found welcome and invitation into the good-news-making of Jesus. I love both the larger and my local church. I believe in the power and the promise of the strangely-warmed.

The Holy Spirit is a force for love in this world. This I believe.

This is a pivotal time.

I am praying.

Please join me.

I got a call this morning from my daughter.

I am in Australia.  She is home in Minnesota.

She wanted me to know there was no emergency but there was this:

Poet Mary Oliver died.

Knowing my heart as she does, she wanted me to know.

The melody of my soul is woven with Mary Oliver’s poetry and prose.

I was able to be in her physical presence once.  She did a poetry reading in Minneapolis.  The church where the event was held was full of those who, like me, came to pay homage.

I wept through most of it.

Some things are just too holy to behold.

I am far from my community and far from my books.  I am far from the round table at our cabin that always held one of her books.  I am left with Facebook as facilitator of communal testimony and grief and it is enough, I suppose.

The power of a soul compelled to sing is miracle.

“Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
~Mary Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

grief

I live in these days with a pervasive and powerful sense of grief.

I love the vision of the nation in which I live.  All are created equal, right? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are certain inalienable rights.  But the whole precious – and who knew how fragile? – vision of what I thought was shared and sacred has been huckstered and profaned through and certainly beyond this past election.

What to make of a nation squandering its heart in fracture?  What to do with earth and women and the poor and the vulnerable collateralized by powerful elite who have no concept of what it is to be other than privileged by gender, race, orientation or social status? What to do with the falling-in-behind the dismantling of compassion by those people who espouse the teachings of Jesus as bedrock in their lives and hearts?  How can Jesus be used as mascot for the impoverishing of millions and the despoiling of this precious earth?

I love the vision of the United Methodist Church.  Transformation of the world is sore needed and the hope of the living Christ as lived through the followers of Jesus is call to lived compassion.  We are called to be antidote to fracture.

What to make of a denomination that condones hate speak?  How can we be about transformation and open hearts, minds, and doors as we participate through our polity in the shutting of doors to the called and the beloved?  How do we preach the Jesus message of dismantling systems of oppression whilst enduring the realities of ministering through a denominational structure bound by just such oppression?

Grief is real.

I’m choosing to feel it.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost.  Pentecost celebrates the ways the Holy Spirit took up dancing on the heads of the fractured and frightened.  Through the power of that Spirit barriers were eradicated and people could hear the hearts and behold the sacred humanity of those they never thought they would understand.

Oh come, Holy Spirit, come!

We are sore in need of the dance.

 

 

new old year

I am home sick on New Year’s Eve.

This was not my plan.

Instead of playing games and eating food with great folks I am tuned into a concert being broadcast from Lincoln Center.

I turned it on and my mother swooped into my heart.

For many years we gathered at my brother’s house to celebrate Christmas on New Year’s Eve. We would eat and play and then gather around an outdoor bonfire with the stars dancing overhead.

That tradition morphed for my mother into symphony concerts in the company of my sister and her husband.

And then, as the years made getting out harder, she took in the concerts available to her on television. I would call her and she would fill me in on what the orchestra had played.

So I am carrying on her tradition, I guess. She would have enjoyed this concert.

On this first turning of the calendar without her, I ache with missing her as I wonder at this living of life without her.

This year would have worked her fierce heart.

The falling from the sky of her grandson and his miraculous healing would have made her near sick with worry for Miles and Brook and for her beloved daughter Margie.

The finding of cancer in the body of daughter Cynthia would have been anguish for her.

And this election? She would have been spitting mad.

I dreamt about my mother last night. In my dream, she was dying. I remember thinking in my dream that I thought people only died once. But there she was, readying herself for death. I was grateful to be with her.

I wonder: Do we die more than once? Do we leave incrementally?

The gifts of those who touch our lives sound on in Copeland and in Strauss. Stars shine over bonfires. Hearts ache with missing.

Blessings on that which was.

Blessings on that which will be.

Blessings.

Happy New Year.