Love-as-Justice

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regarding the upcoming #GC2019, and the state of the #UMC:

a hard and honest truth: the only things I know for sure about the upcoming General Conference, the only personal plan I have, my mantra, and prayer, and offering: It hurts. I will have snacks to share. Stay tender.

a hard and honest truth: tenderness, dear ones, is so very hard when our lives and loves and livelihoods are under attack, on the line, up for debate, up for vote.

a hard and honest truth: the Simple Plan #itsSimple is the only legislative plan before General Conference that, I believe, offers the UMC a faithful, relevant, righteous future, in which we can repent of our discrimination, and overturn the policies and practices that harm our collective body, preclude vibrant ecclesia, and promote evil, injustice, and oppression in so many forms.

a hard and honest truth: I do not know if the One Church Plan would do more harm than good, or more good than harm. I haven’t yet heard an argument for it being right or righteous or faithful, only it being less bad than others, an option that might eventually open other options for something that might eventually look like movement toward justice for queer and trans people. This might be the best we can do, given the current circumstances. It still doesn’t feel good enough.

a hard and honest truth: I cannot support the One Church Plan because it provides theological justification for discrimination, injustice, and harm. It perpetuates the funding ban, which prohibits United Methodist funds from being used to “promote the acceptance of homosexuality.” I have yet to hear (and I really do want to hear, if this witness is out there) how it would help protect the well being and safety of those most vulnerable to violence: the trans teen in Tupelo, the lesbian couple in Lagos, the bakla in Manila, the queer outside of Soweto, the gay man in Monrovia, the bisexual seminarian in North Carolina, the Two Spirit elder on the Kickapoo Reservation, the gay pastor in Seoul. 

a hard and honest truth: it is terrifyingly easy to excuse acquiescence, to justify injustice, to legitimize decisions based in fear not faith.

a hard and honest question: how do we know when we are sacrificing our soul?

a hard and honest truth: the words “United Methodist Church” used to convey, to me, a sense of connectionalism, complicated but meaningful belonging, and collective movement toward more perfect love. Over the last years, the conjuring has shifted more toward betrayal, grief, ineffable and inevitable loss.

a hard and honest truth: there are times that testifying to the truth of our lives is necessary, even if staying silent is easier. Telling the truth is sacred and freeing, even if it comes at excruciating cost.

a hard and honest truth, I am still learning: beloved queers: it is not our job to prove our worth. it is not our job to save the church. it is not our job to convert haters from their sin. it is not our job to convict moderates and progressives from their complicity and complacency. it is our job to claim our belovedness. it is our job to proclaim our sacred worth. it is our job to delight in our love. it is our job to claim and proclaim Divine love as our birthright. it is our job to imagine and enflesh freedom and liberation. it is our job to fight like hell for each other, and show up for each other, in the work of repair, reparation, healing, the salve of collective salvation. it is our job to tend to the complicated and deep legacies of violence perpetrated over generations of missionizing colonialism. it is our job to commit to the labor of intersectional justice, because descriptively and prescriptively there is no lgbtq justice without racial justice without immigrant justice without economic justice without ecological justice without disability justice without gender justice. 

a hard and honest truth:  no matter what happens in St. Louis in a couple of weeks, this hard and holy work will remain urgently before us.

a hard and honest truth: I have been staying off facebook for months, for the sake of my own spirit, because there have been stretches these last few months so difficult, and heavy, and painful that I have had to put every bit of energy I’ve got into surviving. 

a hard and honest truth: in November I learned, via forwarded email, that the Iowa Conference is eliminating funding for campus ministry, posing an urgent and existential threat to the Wesley Center at The University of Iowa, as well as the Wesley Foundations at ISU, UNI, and Drake. I work with a terrific Board, doing exceptionally courageous and hard work to find a way to continue the ministry we know to be life giving, life changing, and life saving. We do not know if we will be able to find a way to continue, but we are not giving up, nor giving in. The daily reality of not knowing if employment, income, health insurance, or vocational viability will continue is a hard reality so many face; the costs to physical, emotional, relational, and collective health are real. 

a hard and honest truth: I have been under active complaint for more months than not since the last General Conference, nearly three years ago. This third and current complaint, filed by IRD staff, from another conference, in a neighboring state, has been left to linger for over ten months, without relational care or regard for the impact on me, my ministry, or the ministry setting in which I serve. 

these days I have been finding sanctuary in my nieces’ love and laughter, my beloved’s arms, a woodworking apprenticeship, the sacrament of brunch, tender care from queer kin flung far and wide, gathering with students at Table, poetry sent and savored and shared, and collectives rising up in resistance, in courage, in creativity, in fearless love.

this I know: I was called into ministry, I became clergy, because of the teachings and witness of a prophet who prioritized those on the margins, who always chose caring for people—in the messy realities of their lives—over profit and power and purity, and who taught that freedom and liberation are possible when we stay focused on simple teachings, risky to live: Welcome the strangers. Release the prisoners. Do not be afraid. Stay tender toward those who persecute you. Do not doubt your sacred worth. Do not doubt the sacred worth of another. Enflesh love. Feed each other. Love-as-justice will set you free, even if it costs you dearly.

this I know: the labor of revolutionary love, the faithful call to fierce and tender resistance, and the hard and holy work of collective liberation is properly before us. May we kindle the courage to seek justice, practice kindness, and journey honestly through this one wild and precious life.

(and find me in St. Louis for snacks. I’ve shared chocolate with colleagues who have filed complaints against me; I’ll certainly share my snacks, and break bread, with you.)

(also: a chart that lays out the plans before General Conference, if you're interested...)

Rev. Anna Blaedel

Rev. Anna Blaedel