Beware and Be Aware

As the deadline for GC2020 legislation came and went, so we return to the cycles of institutional bargaining. Not over what Good News we will offer to this aching planet and all oppressed peoples, but over power, pensions, and properties. The people with the largest platforms, the most power, and with popularity built from palatability, are those who set the primary legislative narrative while the rest of us—our lives and our voices—will be read through their narratives from here on out.

Yesterday, this began with Rev. Adam Hamilton - the center of the UMNext movement, the pastor of one of the most resourced UMCs, and one of the primary champions of the One Church Plan going into GC2019.

In his written vision, one *could* read Hamilton's stated desire for The United Methodist Church as a restating of "The Simple Plan" that we UM-Forward "unreasonable radicals" were rooting for in February of 2019. The plan that was not taken seriously by the majority or by him...that “had no hope of passing..." that was "uncompromising." That he now, interestingly, says "defines the centrist position."

One *could* read his words: "My hope is that the next United Methodism removes the language and policies that exclude, harm, or alienate LGBTQ persons and their friends and families...and...make room for faithful, thoughtful, compassionate, and caring United Methodists who may disagree..." as the exact definition of what the Simple Plan would have achieved .

To cut through the noise,
is to cut through the well-crafted narratives of power that silence...

And one *could* see how cycles of oppression are upheld by centrism - over and against those who move from the margins - making what was once deemed radical seem reasonable only because of who is saying it. In this case, in a matter of months, no-less. What came from the margins is taken up by the center when it's too late. After the damage has been done.

image: “Tumultum” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, São Paulo, Brasil.

image: “Tumultum” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, São Paulo, Brasil.

I am so glad he's beginning to recognize what we've been saying and queer people have been working for with great loss for decades. I genuinely celebrate when people in power increase in awakening of any kind. There is reason to rejoice as we hope less harm will be done from such a massive platform of money and institutional power. I only hope that he might also begin to use his incredible privilege to point towards the margins from which the love that has transformed his own life, for over at least the last decade, has been flowing. That he might repent of the harm that has been and will continue to be done - both before and after GC2019. That he might redistribute some of the wealth and power he has aquired through his participation in the debate on queer lives and loves. And that he might choose to break the cycles he has been a part of - turn from centering his own privileged location and listen, support, and continue learning from the margins.

Of course, he is but an example of the cycles of power, oppression, and appropriation we choose and perpetuate. This is about how power works, over and over and through so many well-intentioned people. A story as old as time, rooted in white supremacist thinking that believes it can steal and devour from anyone and anywhere. Mainstream UMC, another coalition formed to support the One Church Plan going into GC2019 - a plan that was uninterested in centering queer, trans, and people of color lives - and actively worked to counter the messaging of the Simple plan - is raising thousands and thousands of dollars to once again advance a campaign that will de-center the lives of the marginalized while using just enough language to ensure our theoretical “inclusion.” Nevermind whether it’s the kind of “inclusion” we need, desire, or will serve our collective and global flourishing.

Centrist messaging often includes a convenient reference to cutting through the noise” of these messy times in the church. This message of course, implies a kind of “rising above,” as if those on the so-called left and right--a binary description that is overly simplistic and completely void of intersectional realities as well as power analysis--are mere distractions from what’s valuable for discernment.

Scriptures, however, say that without love, even the talk of angels is but a clanging cymbal (I Cor. 13).

Noise is that which distracts us from Love. Noise can be nice. Noise can be pretty. Noise can feel good. God’s love does not always look or feel nice, pretty, or good when we find ourselves in the midst of a destructive institution.

To cut through the noise, is to cut through the well-crafted narratives of power that silence those, whom like John the Baptist, have been calling for repentance from the antiqueer, white supremacist, and patriarchal destruction for decades.

In these coming months, beloveds, beware and be aware:
Of good intentions entangled with unaddressed power dynamics
Of words of love disembodied from actions that affect real lives and bodies.
Of media and messaging meant to camouflage  all our denominational ills.
Of the false claim that we can be neutral on matters of any oppression.
Of claims that pit marginalized people against each other to the benefit of the dominant.
Of those who seek overly simplistic solutions in misguided attempts at silencing the conversation on queer lives and loves, rather than following Christ to the margins where the captives are all set free. #umcSetFree

Rev. M Barclay

(P.S. I hope someone who loves both queer people and Adam Hamilton will teach him about bisexuality. It is, after all, bisexuality awareness week. A good time to remember:

  • Bisexual people in queer relationships are no more allowed to be ordained or married in the UMC than gay and lesbian people. Erasing our identities by naming us all “gay and lesbian” is not acceptable from those who call us friends, whether inside or outside the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • If someone is bisexual, they are still bisexual regardless of who they are dating. Those of us who are attracted to more than one gender do not become gay, lesbian, or straight by nature of who we are dating.
  • Just because the polity erases our identities by naming bisexual people in queer relationships as “gay or lesbian” does not make it acceptable for others to do so. Talk about what the policies do, not what they ignorantly suggest.)
Rev. M Barclay