Good News

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I have been wanting to write something to reflect on the upcoming General Conference, but for a long time, I simply could not (a rare state for me as a biblical scholar, teacher, and minister). I have been too consumed with anger and hurt as I have contemplated how much people who call themselves friends would be willing to hurt LGBTQ persons, such as myself, for the sake of so-called “church unity.”

I realized that the issue is not degree of potential harm. I, and my queer kin, have already been hurt. Not only by people who condemn queer life and love. Even more, I carry deep pain over those who whisper their support with teary eyes but then absolve themselves of responsibility for enacting a more just way. The amount of time and energy I have spent with Anna Blaedel before people with institutional power, doing the work for them of articulating an alternative vision, only to be met with those sad, conviction-less eyes, has depleted my capacity to give much more. I have been filled with rage and lament. But few words.

And still, as General Conference draws near, I am being renewed by the collective energies of fierce, glorious queer living and loving. I am buoyed by the sort of solidarity that does not ask how much we are willing to hurt one another, especially not in obeisance to the false idol of unity, but knows that #ItsSimple, #GC2019: it is not the work of the gospel if it is not Good News for all.

There is great uncertainty over what will be the outcome and fallout of General Conference. But the UMC will surely be changed regardless of any particular decisions. How affiliations are determined, rules are set, and resources are distributed certainly matters, but this is not the whole story. Whatever legislation passes, or not, there will continue to be faithful Methodists. And there will continue to be Methodist congregations. And there will be, as there are now, multiple organizations that carry on the Methodist tradition. So why compromise our souls for the sake of a “unity” that has always already been fictitious, premised upon all manner of exclusions? #ItsSimple

I write grounded in the gospel, literally the Good News. And I write with particular concern for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons who have been the subject of divisive, harmful debates for too long. Let me be clear: You are beloved. You are holy. Your living and your loving is a gift.

As a queer person myself, I have been living with the Church’s collective anxiety over sexuality for much of my life. And so I want to share a bit of wisdom gleaned in the dynamic tension between hurt and grace, learned from and with generations of justice seekers:

Institutions cannot love. Institutional policies matter insofar as they regulate how we relate to one another. But neither the UMC nor any institution can love LGBTQ persons, or any person.

We either love or do harm to one another. So how will we live? How will we organize ourselves? How will we act in relation to one another?

The future of the UMC as an institution is uncertain. But remember this message of Good News, ancient words that are realized afresh in every act of tender compassion and fierce justice: “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38–39). May it be so.

Rev. Tyler Schwaller

Rev. Tyler Schwaller