The Invitation Into New Life

photo credit: “Forward in Love” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, California, USA.

photo credit: “Forward in Love” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, California, USA.

Dear ones, the etymological root of “decision” is traced to “cut.” Decisions cut off some possibilities, in order to enable other possibilities to become. Loss, sharp and inevitable, results from our decisions and indecisions, our actions and inactions. So does the invitation into new life.

At the most recent Orders event, a gathering for United Methodist clergy across Iowa, my bishop and colleagues sang “Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken,” and all I could think about was how I was born with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck and if someone had not intervened, urgently and decisively, to cut that cord, life would have been choked out of me before it even really began.

Some cords need to be broken.
Some cuts need to be made, in order to enable life’s possibilities to flourish.

During Holy Week, I formally offered my resignation as Director of the Wesley Center at The University of Iowa to the Board of Directors, effective July 1. I need to make a cut, in order to breathe. My decision is rooted in two urgent longings: to shift time and energy toward writing my dissertation, and to carve space for imagining future vocational and denominational possibilities.

There is deep and ineffable loss entangled in this decision. And, I pray, new life made possible.

The Wesley Center Board has hired me as a consultant for the 2019-2020 school year, working up to 10 hours a week. I will continue to facilitate and host Tuesday Table, creating space for lingering with students in Divine truths that matter, and offering spiritual and physical nourishment to UI students as well as the broader community. I am delighted to continue this work, and already visioning and dreaming about our weekly gatherings at Table next year. I will also be consulting with the Board as they take the coming year to intentionally discern how the Wesley Center can continue to do the vital work we are called to, sustaining our ministry of partnering with students to seek intersectional justice and encounter community, and enacting our core values of justice, courage, hospitality, authenticity, community, and healthy and sustainable leadership. For my five years as Director, I/we/the Wesley Center have been laboring to do the ministry we are called to. Indeed, we have been bearing fruit in this ministry through lives changed and saved. Even, often, without sufficient resources required to support and sustain this work. I remain grateful for, moved by, and invested in the holy and hard labor they/we are doing. We remain excited about the Wesley Center’s future, envisioning a vibrant, creative, bold, and faithful spiritual community, rooted in the best of the legacies that have brought us to this point, and shedding the legacies that have impeded our work and witness.

For four years, I have been under complaint, bound in abusive processes and relational entanglements that undermine my/our ministry, and demand incredible time, energy, and labor in order to survive, and find sustenance. I am still under active complaint, in accordance with ¶362.1 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline, “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual” (¶2702.1[b]) and “disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church” (¶2702.1[d]). My sexual practices and my being are currently under formal investigation. While I am under complaint, I do not have the option of transferring my credentials to another conference or denomination, nor can I seek a formal leave of absence. (I am not looking to leave Iowa City, nor is transferring conferences or denominations currently in line with my call and commitment to collective liberation, though I recognize these moves as possibilities, and believe they are sometimes necessary cuts.) I will continue to fight this harmful, abusive, life-diminishing complaint, buoyed by the incredible withness of beloved kin and clergy support, Rev. Dr. Tyler Schwaller, and the webs of queer kin and radical ecclesia and beloved community that make live livable. We will tell the truth. We will bear witness and withness. We will show up with and for each other, for the sake of our own souls, and for countless others known and unknown to us, because the holy labor of collective liberation is our call, our covenant, our commissioning.

I do not know how these processes will unfold, or where they will leave me. I do know I am eager to write. I also know the onslaught of complaints has been too much for too long. I also know I will continue to collaborate with queer kin and radical ecclesia, particularly the holy movements manifesting in UM-Forward and Love Prevails as we seek to build and bear witness to the Sacred power unleashed by resisting evil, injustice, and oppression in all their forms.

The 2019 General Conference and recent Judicial Council rulings changed northing, and changed everything. Truths of a denomination entrenched in colonialism, racism, and misogyny, and committed to justifying and perpetuating a status quo of anti-queer and anti-trans persecution were revealed with striking clarity. The institutional leaders and practices whose actions and inactions have created this reality are not going to be the ones to lead us into a different future. The need for creative and innovative theological work around sexuality, race, and gender for the sake of collective liberation is urgently before us. So too, the call to tell the truth about forces of harm, and healing. So too, the invitation to offer and share nourishment for those laboring in movements of justice, liberation, and healing.

If you are staying in the UMC, how are you escalating your resistance to the evils, injustices, and oppressions raging in this denomination, to match the escalating violence? If you are leaving the UMC, how are you continuing the call to labor for collective liberation in a world of escalating violence, oppression, and extremism? If you cannot answer this, if you are not escalating your faithful resistance in unprecedented ways, how are you accounting for your complicity in this violence?

The work continues. Our work continues.

May the cords that bind us together be life-giving cords of care, honesty, healing, justice, and liberation. If not, may they be courageously and faithfully broken.

Rev. Anna Blaedel

Rev. Anna Blaedel