Reckoning: Hope, Prayer, Plea...
the formal decisions made by the United Methodist General Conference are violent and awful and wreaking havoc and causing pain. but. this isn’t a radical departure from how the UMC has been treating LGBTQ people for a loooong time. truths that many progressive and moderate UMs haven’t wanted to face are being revealed. if you’re (and I’m talking especially to the straight white moderates and progressives in Iowa who thought the One Church Plan would save us, now, because y’all are who I’ve returned to) struggling to sit with the truth of the UMC’s hateful violence against LGBTQ people, and the entrenched racism and colonialism, please keep paying attention and don’t rush to plans that will make you feel better. it hurts, doesn’t it? my oh my oh my, it hurts. feel some of this violence in your bones. remember that it’s not even being directed at your being. remember you’re only feeling a tiny fraction. welcome. if you stick with it, there’s a chance for solidarity to become. this possible reckoning is what gives me hope for a faithful church that could emerge.
and: please don’t share and amplify the voices of those whose actions and inactions have led us to the church whose truth is being revealed. (yes, I’m talking about bishops and megachurch pastors who might be seeing the light now but have been deep histories of complicity in anti-queer, white-centered approaches to church.) they ain’t gonna save us.
and, please don’t allow yourself to be in a single additional meeting or gathering of UMs without naming the forces of violence: anti-queer, white supremacy, colonialism. push your people. share the risk. raise your voice. stop excusing and justifying violence. don’t allow statements like “there’s pain on all sides” to be said without reminding those gathered that it’s categorically not the same pain. do you know what it feels like in my bones to walk into an Iowa UM gathering and likely be the only out queer there and fear that if I don’t name the violence no one will but when I do I’ll be further isolated as angry, divisive, etc? i feel that in your bones. (those who know me best know how much labor it has taken for me to start breaking rules, expressing anger, and telling the truth when people I care about don’t wanna hear it. join me. please. that togetherness is what ecclesia is about.)
in order to build, we need to be real and honest about what is. honest inventory of harm and deep repentance is necessary first, for forgiveness and reconciliation.
also: I am an out queer (self-avowed and practicing) clergy person currently under complaint. I have been under formal complaint more than not for three years. three complaints plus a Judicial Council review. I’m working on forgiving and staying tender with those of y’all who are only now seeing that there’s something really wrong, because I know that truly becoming an ally, let alone an accomplice, takes work and labor and courage and learning, and that takes time.
maybe y’all could begin here, with the local Iowa reality: while I have heard from and received ministry invitations since GC from two other UM conferences, as well as the UCC, Episocoal Church, and PCUSA, I haven’t heard a word, even just pastoral, relational checking in, from my own Bishop Laurie Haller . her only public, written response to GC has been this: “While many people are grateful for the decisions of the General Conference, others are devastated. I pray that you will treat one another with compassion and kindness during this time.” her response erases the very presence of LGBTQ people. it centers those who are grateful for the actions of GC, which legitimizes the hate and harm. and she continues to equate the oppressor with the oppressed, flattening the systems of power, which is a classic tactic of justifying abuse. I believe she can do better. please help her do better. also, last April Rev. Len Eberhart agreed to serve as counsel for the church, “investigating and filing a judicial complaint” against me. that news was devastating to me, because I thought there was a relationship of mutuality and support there. I did not hear a word from Len about this decision for over 10 months, and even then only after both my Board and I wrote to him. we received a perfunctory response quoting the Book of Discipline and his commitment to follow it. when I saw him at General Conference, in the midst of all that violence, all he could say was that he wasn’t supposed to/allowed to talk to me. I believe he can do better. help him do better.
finally: (still with me?!) I’ve been working with wood. It’s so good for my soul. y’all who saw me at GC probably saw me with sandpaper, and sawdust on me. I finished the spoon I was working on right before the Traditionalist Plan passed. over the days of GC, a large crack emerged in the wood, all the way through. fitting, right? but here’s the thing: it was only after returning home I realized there’s another crack. barely visible. but while the big crack is unavoidably before us, the spoon’s structural strength isn’t actually hampered by it. but the barely visible line running through means that I could break this spoon apart with my bare hands. the break wouldn’t happen at the visible crack; the actual brokenness, the threat to integrity, is where it’s harder to see. “lukewarm acceptance is more bewildering than outright rejection.”
please please please please please: we have a broken open opportunity to sit with the truths being revealed, and make a collective commitment to do it differently. this is my hope. this is my prayer. this is my plea.
Editor’s note: this blog post was originally posted on Rev. Anna Blaedel’s FB page on March 1st, 2019.