“Wade in the water
Wade in the water, children
Wade in the water
God’s gonna trouble the water”
Last week and into the weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the Leadership Institute which was held at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. This gathering of 2,500 UMs from roughly 1,500 UM churches was for held for the purpose of, “helping United Methodist leaders navigate and lead through the next steps for the denomination.” To gather centrists and progressives, and attempt to build bridges of understanding upon which we can march forward together toward the Promised Land of inclusion for LGBTQ+ folks–and all marginalized communities–is no small feat.
Many queer folks and people of color have been resisting the evils and oppressions of our Church for decades, and the burden has been passed on from generation to generation. These folks bring a perspective and experiences which are different from those who are just beginning the process of resistance and getting involved in denominational change. It’s a difficult task to honor the disproportionate burden placed on queer people and people of color and create space for newcomers to be educated on the harms done.
As a good friend said on Twitter after the conference, “It is very easy for me to criticize, complain and poke holes at things.” In our struggle for denominational justice we will fail and have failed the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, immigrants, disabled persons, women, and so many others. As we continue to tread this path together, we will inevitably harm one another on occasion–but if I’ve learned anything from my seminary community it’s that we must assume the best of folks if we want to make meaningful change and engage in truly transformative dialogue. We will on occasion harm each other, and when we assume the best, we have the opportunity unpack our mistakes and learn from them.
With all that said, the conference informed us of the plans coming before the General Conference in May 2020 re: the future of the UMC. You will hear more about these plans as the time gets closer (and I have time to give them each my full attention).
As the black spiritual sung on the underground railroad reminds us, we are called to wade into the waters of uncertainty and fear because God’s gonna trouble the waters, and God’s Spirit will do the unimaginable. We can throw each other in the water, we can run away, or, we can take the hand of our black/brown/immigrant/LGBTQ+ neighbor and wade into this moment together as we await the movement of God’s Spirit in our Church and in the world.