We are in a time of great division and pain. To have a global denomination in countries where same-sex acts are still illegal—and with countries like Brunei which just recently codified their condemnation of homosexual people to death by stoning—to be a Church in all of these places, and to expect us all to agree is preposterous. And yet, we tried to do the same thing over again; we tried to use a broken system to fix its own brokenness. To see a majority of the Bishops stand and weep with us at General Conference as the Traditional Plan gained traction illustrates just how broken our system is. What can we do if even our leaders no longer have the ability to lead within our structure?
I stepped off the voting floor once the TP passed and I wondered: “where is the Good Shepherd in this? Is this decision truly the work of the Holy Spirit?” And when we confront these questions, we are faced with an even more alarming one: is our denomination able to discern the will of God? Has The United Methodist Church died, has it ceased in its ability to serve God and serve all people for the transformation of the world?
When I reflect on this question, I think of Jesus’ approach to the city of Jerusalem before his crucifixion. As he approached the city of God’s chosen people, what was set aside to be a holy city of God, Jesus wept. Now this little verse doesn’t get much credit but the only other time we see Jesus weep is over the loss of his beloved companion, Lazarus. And yet, as Jesus looked at the so-called “city of God,” and he wept. Many of the Bishops, the majority of those gathered in St.Louis, and those around the world looked at our denomination on Tuesday, February 26th and we wept.
Jesus wept and said, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” (Luke 19:42-44)
If only we as a global denomination had recognized on that day—and on this day—the things that make for peace. Those who seek to do harm to neighbor, or whose theological convictions somehow “justify” real harm on the children of God, have hemmed us in, trying to crush our spirits and grind us into this holy ground because they do not recognize our visitation from God. Jesus wept for the supposed city of God because he knew that without justice, there is no peace; and peace is not just a heavenly reality—it’s something that can be witnessed and worked for here in this life—in this world. Jesus is essentially the first one to express the chant which many social-justice marches use: “No justice, no peace.”
I believe that through this great pain—through the death of what we understood to be The United Methodist Church—there will be a glorious resurrection. Already there are over 40,000 reconciling United Methodists—individual Church embers who have pledged to support the full inclusion of LGBTQIA people in the life and ministry of the UMC. There are over 1,000 reconciling communities now in our global connection.
Let me be clear as to my position: The United Methodist Church—as currently structured—is dead, but we are already witnessing a glorious resurrection! We will not allow the river of justice to be damned, nor will we allow our deeply flawed general Church structure to silence sound of the Spirit. WE are the Church, and I am committed to forging forward with congregations around our connection to reclaim our United Methodist heritage and tradition—TO RECLAIM OUR CHURCH. I cast my vote now for no confidence in the General Conference as a body which can discern the will of God. I, along with many other inclusive leaders in the UMC, do not know what the next step for our Church will be, but we are inviting all of us to enter into deeper conversation–and holy resistance–as we discern the movement of the Spirit together.
May we continue not only to discern the Spirit, but to take action in bold ways as we follow the Spirit of justice. Silence at this time cannot be an option, we must boldly affirm and celebrate the life and ministry of LGBTQ+ people because without justice for us and others excluded by the Church, there will be no peace in the land of the Lord.