General Conference ended late Friday night, and I've now been home for just over 24 hours. I have spent most of this time in reflection of all that has occurred over the past two weeks.
Two weeks ago, I was in a very different place. I was getting ready to leave for General Conference with few ideas of what to expect. I knew I was full of hope and looking forward to some great "holy conferencing" with my United Methodist brothers and sisters from around the globe. My greatest concerns were of finding time for self-care: getting enough sleep, not eating just junk, and finding enough "alone" time to keep me sane. Turns out in the end, that none of these things actually mattered. And life goes on.
I wrote quite a bit on here about some of the big legislations that did (or didn't) go through. Some. I think I failed to mention other big ones such as we voted to have full communion with the ELCA, which will become official if their body also votes for it at their conference in a couple of months. Lots of things were changed with the ordination process, too- varying from language ("probationary" will now be "provisionary") to a change in commissioning for two years rather than 3. This was a result of some folks wanting to "streamline" the ordination process (it is long, obnoxious, and sometimes feels impossible). I, however, strongly disagree with many of these changes, and am disappointed in the changes, as I feel like they were not fully discussed as to the implications they would have long-term. (Maybe they were discussed more fully in the legislative body; I was unable to attend those sessions). Also related to ordination, Deacons were given sacramental authority with the permission of the Bishop in cases of extension ministries where no Elder is present. (A side note on ordination... there were also petitions to reject the "Church within a Church" movement... which were rejected!)
As I work to re-discover how life has gone on without us during the past couple of weeks, I am slowly moving on. Moving on to a place of peace with the decisions that have been made. Moving from mourning on Good Friday (as I still very much felt this morning) and into a place of Holy Saturday. I'm still not to the Resurrection of Easter yet, but I'll get there. As I find opportunities to engage with others who did not experience the despair first-hand at the conference, I find I am quickly moving into their shared hope. Because there is hope. Lots of it. Far more good things came from this conference than bad ones. The bad ones... were really bad. But they aren't the end. We are still the Church. In reality, many things didn't change at all. The BOD basically reads the same. Yet we (Holy Covenant) have been a welcoming, inclusive church for nearly 30 years... and that is not going to change.
I also realize, and am stuck on, the hope that comes in numbers. Hope in seeing our progression. Our church is so divided, so broken. Yet I can't help but to feel and know that the brokenness is mutual. This has become about "us" and "them" - yet I hold fast to the belief that WE are ONE body of Christ, and until we can reconcile that - at least to agree to disagree - none of us can be whole. The vote was SO close this time. Seven changed votes would have made the difference and the change. So it goes in a democratic system. Is that really a victory? I say it is both a loss for both sides that we are so divided, and also in many ways a victory, for we can rest knowing that as the votes have shifted, they have done so as a result of hearts and minds being opened. We know and trust the Holy Spirit will continue to do so, and the change we speak so highly of WILL come. We can count on that.
So I rest in the hope we must have. I look forward to a future in the church I know I can play a role in changing. I also know that this issue- exclusion based on sexual orientation - is only one of many flaws our church has. Have I thought about leaving because of this? I would be lying if I said it has never crossed my mind. But I would also be lying to say that I think I would ever do so. Change has to come from within... and change happens through personal relationships and conversations. If I (we!) can stay within The UMC and help to do these things, only then can change be made real and possible. Christ said it wouldn't be easy. But it is holy. Holy Change. We'll get there, friends. I can see our Future with Hope.