For a New Creation
While I must, in full disclosure, admit that the recent Judicial Council decision was not an unknown inevitable, 1378 still radiates and prinks the entirety of my being. Decision 1378 leads me to reflect on the biblical image of the threshing floor. In the predominate historical narrative of The UMC, disinherited communities and bodies are (in many ways) symbolic of the floor, that which is trampled on and used as a means for something else to thrive. The disinherited in this narrative is also symbolic of the chaff, that which endures constant beating until nothing remains but that which to be thrown out and burned. Perhaps though and most intriguing to me is the wheat, the scattered fragments which are gathered up and utilized to re-create that which is innovative and creative and collective.
Because the legislation is not the focus of what is before you, I will only address 1378 very briefly. In brief, eight (8) of the original 17 petitions included in the Traditional Plan which was submitted to the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference were found to be constitutional and to be subsequently implemented and included in the Book of Discipline. As I digest what I’m receiving, hearing, seeing, and ultimately experiencing and what many will hear and respond to, rightly so, is The UMC’s clarion call that if you don’t practice, live-out, pursue, or submit to a traditional sexual ethic specifically around non-normative expression, you can and should disaffiliate.
The many, of which I speak, are the ones who have already disregarded church as obsolete. The many are also the ones who for conscience sake and for the sake of following a Christ who liberates socially, geographically, physically, spiritually, and sexually cannot maintain the status quo. The many are the 40 and under demographic including millennials and centennials. The many are the ones who, by the way, without representation within the church will be the singular fatal blow to the body of Christ that will put to rest the very institution in which every attempt is being made to maintain.
Bodies, families, and communities like threshing floors and chaffs of wheat are being trampled on, separated, and cast aside by an institution that is called to a high moral ground and to “…regard no one from a human point of view; [because] even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way” (2 Corinthians 5:16, NRSV). Those of which I speak are most certainly beloved LGBTQIA+ persons currently being singled out by the most recent General Conference session but too include those bodies, families, and communities that at points throughout Methodist history have been trampled on, separated, and cast aside. These facts and realities are not disconnected and the ways in which the disinherited continue to be scattered are not dissimilar. Regarding no longer from a ‘human point of view’ requires the Christ that is in each of us to pervade every sense of us, to be affirmed in us, and to be the genesis of connection between and among us. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NRSV)!
I cannot claim my place in the annals of recent history, because there are many faithful witnesses who have struggled and many who continue to endure an institutional praxis that many times is dramatized in extreme contention. By God’s grace, I have had the pleasure of journeying with some of those persons. Additionally, I revere many more witnesses in the communion of saints who sacrificed abundantly to smooth the threshing floor ever so much for those who were called to carry the mantle into the future. I, though, can claim my voice and agency and the gifts I offer as a co-worker in the vineyard. I am grateful for those who have encouraged me personally, professionally, spiritually, and authentically.
I, too, am grateful that my familial heritage and personal faith grew out of and into United Methodism. I have ever only known United Methodism as my faith tradition. In 2013, I accepted a call to ministry in my tradition and pursued to live out that call within what I knew and loved and all of what I believed it could become. I’ve found grace and peace in this journey. I too have found challenges and weariness. I desire for systemic dis-ease and tension to be reconciled and for the full revelation of the Kin-dom of God to be realized within my Church; yet, I regret nothing over these last few years.
Recently, however, I have come to a place after much prayer and discernment where I must take an extended sabbatical; therefore, I am spending some time away from The UMC. I have come to the decision that for my own wellbeing and the wellbeing of any church I serve, and to which I may be appointed, that right now neither will be whole. It has become increasingly necessary for me to find space to re-create and re-connect. The decision neither came easily nor immediately; but every day, I am learning to trust God.
I have utmost respect for my peers, colleagues, and friends who must remain. I embrace those who have journeyed beyond The UMC. I, as well, honor those who are still in a place of discernment. As for me, I am wholly leaning on God and trust that much will be revealed to me in the coming days.
My prayer, beloveds, is that the scattered fragments will be called out, gathered up, purposed, and brought forth for a new creation!