It’s been quite a while since I’ve had the chance to sit down, breathe, and contemplate writing a blog post. Over the past 3.5 months, I’ve visited 32 different worshipping communities in ten different states. It’s been a marathon (and if you’d like to keep more constantly up to date, just text the word “FORWARD” to 66866 and you’ll receive my bi-weekly newsletter). The race has been long, but it’s been fulfilling. Even though it’s the end of my summer circuit ride,” it’s the beginning of so much more.
My time this summer has been spent writing my upcoming book, Reclaiming Church: A Call to Action for Religious Rejects (which will be published in February), and preaching at churches, area gatherings and annual conferences all across the connection. Each community has been unique and has had differing views on the best way forward for our Church. My theme this summer was “Forward Together,” which proved to be an unlikely, but well-received challenge to many. As I begin planning my winter speaking schedule, a pastor from the south said to me, “I know you’ve had it easy in the West. Are you ready for the south?”
It’s funny, before I got here (“here” being Arizona, Montana, Oregon, and California), I too wondered what impact I could possibly have on churches who have been working toward the inclusion of LGBTQ+ folks since before I was born. What should my message be? What was my role in such a time as this, and in such a place as this? Would it be too easy?
I quickly realized that “easy” did not characterize my role out here or the message I shared. Many of the folks here have been working toward LGBTQ+ inclusion for decades, and many are tired, worn out, and frankly pissed off. They don’t want to continue supporting an institution which is decades behind the moral arc of justice. They’re tired and they’re ready to leave.
To discuss moving forward together with these worn-out sojourners for justice was not so easy.
When I arrived in Sacramento almost four weeks ago, I was asked to preach on Luke 12 and the parable of a wealthy man. I wasn’t sure how this would fit into my summer theme, so I contemplated it for days. Finally the night before I suddenly got it (more like I finally spent some quality time with God about it).
In this parable, a man’s harvest is so great that he has to decide what to do. His storehouses are too small and he couldn’t possibly use all of it himself. So, he decided “I’ll tear down my storehouses and build bigger ones! Then, I can tell my soul, ‘Soul, you’ve done well. Relax and enjoy.'” But at this moment God said to the man, “You fool! Tonight your life will be taken, and then what good will your harvest be? Who will enjoy the abundance you have?”
For many LGBTQ+ affirming United Methodists–and Christians in other denominations–it can feel like we’ve got a storehouse that is full of social justice. Our local churches may have been affirming of all sexualities and working toward racial reconciliation for decades. We might have an abundance of social awareness, so why not leave, keep our stores of social reconciliation, and rest a while?
Well, queer babies will continue to be born around the world, and they will need safe spaces to worship and be their God-given selves. What will happen to our harvests of social consciousness? Who will benefit from our labors?
The day may be soon when we inclusive folks leave together the denomination. My hope is that no matter what happens to the denomination as a whole, rather than keep our social awareness to ourselves in our local church/region, let’s use this opportunity to engage in our connection of inclusive churches–and churches who are willing to take the journey. Let’s deconstruct our social storehouses and provide teachings and partnerships with folks around the world who are willing to take the journey of understanding. Let’s partner with rural churches in Mississippi or Kenya, and let’s be the people of a global social consciousness.
Let’s use this moment to commit that no matter what happens to our denomination, we, as the inclusive churches, will continue our connection to each other, and bind ourselves together in love so that we might transform the WORLD through the liberating and unconditional love of Jesus. We have been called for such a time as this to face our fears, to continue to run the race, and to work together toward the Kin-dom of God–on earth as it is in Heaven.