Friday, May 2, 2008

Without Words

Heartbreaking as it is, I feel it necessary to give name to some of the big petitions that have gone through.

Some things went through without discussion on the "consent calendar." For example, it was a HUGE success that Immigration Resolutions went through! It was also a surprise to many when we realized that the commissioning process has been changed. They've changed not only the language of "probationary" to "provisional," but also made the commissioning period only two years before one can be ordained.

We've also made some terrible changes. We've retained language that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, inserting a phrase (paragraph 151) that says we only affirm "monogamous, heterosexual" relations. I think it a good point when someone told me this morning, that this places us "just right of the Pope." Is this who we as United Methodists want to be? We are breaking the church, friends...

We rejected proposed changes that would state that all people should be welcome in our churches. The specific petition I am referring to was a response to Judicial Decision 1032, which denied someone church membership because he is a "self-avowed practicing homosexual." The way the Book of Discipline is currently (and will remain) worded, it is possible to deny someone membership. In this specific case, it was only a transfer of membership, as he held membership elsewhere in a United Methodist Church but moved. Is this who we as the Church really want to claim to be? A church that cannot even welcome "all of God's children"? Wednesday was a long, terrible day.

One of its darkest moments included a statement from the floor that we are not all God's children. Really, Church? Luther and Calvin were quoted... but are we not Wesleyans? Do we not believe in prevenient grace, that even people who do not yet know or accept Christ are loved and offered life in Christ? Do we not believe that ALL people are made in the image of God? ALL means ALL, friends. ALL.

Committed unions and ordination rights for ALL were also both rejected. It was a long, painful day. It is a deepening of the heartbreak and pain and separation and discrimination we have at a structural, institutional level.

There are no words to describe what it has been to be here. We are hurting and broken. We feel helpless as we embrace one another and share in tears, sorrows, heartache, and PRAYER. We may not have been able to change the language in the BOD this year, but friends, I encourage you and remind us all that we have not completely lost, either. Votes were CLOSE. Closer than ever before. One vote even went over 51%-49% - there was a difference of only twelve votes. Yes, the other vote had those twelve votes - but is that really a victory? We are completely divided. We are continuing to tear ourselves apart. We are excluding people without whom I cannot imagine my own faith journey. We are excluding people who love the church. Who ARE the church. Yes, we are hurting. Yes, we want NEED change. It is coming. Slowly but sure, our voices are being heard, and change IS coming.

I am trying to focus on this piece of hope as we go forward. We must go forward. True, I am new to this struggle. But its my struggle too. Its my responsibility to make sure that I'm doing my best to get out of the role of the bigoted, oppressing, privileged role that I have as I move forward with my own ordination process despite any (lack of) changes this week. As I do so, I know I must go forth as I prepare to go home tomorrow. As I prepare to return to the Reconciling Church which I LOVE back in Chicago, where we will mourn and hurt and cry together. But then we will live on. We will live on in ministry as an example of what God is calling the Church to be. We will live on. And we'll be back in 4 years.

In the direct hit of this pain, there are few words to speak. I ask you all to pray deeply in the next few days for lgbt people and their families and friends, and especially for those who are serving at General Conference.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jen,

I loved reading your posts this week about Conference.

I have a question. You mention in this post that "We've changed it so that we no longer declare war to be incompatible with Christian teaching." Can you say more about this? I found several petitions concerning Paragraph 165; most seems to have been rejected, and the only one that seems to have passed seems to have strengthened the "war is incompatible with Christian teaching" language:

And it looks like the petition to strike the "incompatible" language failed:

Am I mis-reading these, or not aware of some other Conference action?