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This is the sign on the door to the balcony in the Air BnB where we’re staying in St. Louis for GC 2019. “Welcome! - NO GUESTS ALLOWED.” At first this was funny. It’s not funny anymore.
I’ve tried to practice patience. I’m new to this side of Methodism, never having been to a general conference. I had the chance to be here in person for General Conference 2019, ready to witness an historic event where one of the world’s largest global mainline denominations, my denomination, was moved by the Spirit of love, the call harbored in the name of God, and the command of the scriptures we hold so dear, to throw wide open its doors to welcome all people (in this case making compromises all around to create a pathway for the full inclusion - in marriage and ordination - of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers…). Not so much.
I’ve tried to practice patience. I listed to the sage advice of my friend Derrick, who serves as a delegate, “We have to wait until it’s all said and done, because what is proposed may not be anything like what passes. Proposals can get changed and gutted in legislative body by amendments and judicial rulings.” Maybe there was a way this could come together for love and inclusion… but it wasn’t on the docket for this GC.
I’ve tried to be patient, and for three days I’ve watched the conference try and fail to make love the foundation of our movement, to live up to its first rule, “DO NO HARM”. For three days I’ve walked by this damn sign and chucked less and less at the irreconcilable oxymoron of the message. I fear we have posted this sign above the door of every church that bears the cross and flame, the Methodist name, and now the mark of a church steered by a regressive fear and increasingly conservative fundamentalist use of scripture to abuse, control and exclude. If so many of those in the Methodist church are so bent on their version of biblical purity that they can’t see their own hate, they might as well remove the welcome sign and make the message clear - “NO GUESTS ALLOWED”. The message of conditional, punitive, self-seeking "love" (a love of power, not a love of neighbor) could not be clearer.
I know they think they’re keeping the church safe by keeping queers off the proverbial balcony. Maybe in some deluded way they think they’re even protecting our God-saturated, spirit-filled, rainbow-clad-Christian queers… “loving the sinner,” ya know? But they aren’t. Their version of Christianity has been sick for some time and they’ve just officially placed themselves on hospice. There will be no recovery for a Christianity that others any other. There will be no future for a church that dresses the wolves of hate in the wool of love.
Perhaps a slow and familiar palliative death can ease this toxic Christianity to its final rest with more grace, love and human dignity than has been extended to their LGBTQ sisters and brothers; those who’ve not gone peacefully, but who’ve suffered depression, crippling loneliness, spiritual abuse, had their lives taken in the name of God, and have even taken their own lives over what this church has said to and about them. God forgive us. Christ have mercy!
May we return this hate with love and the abject horror of this sin with a mercy we do not possess, a mercy which must come from that place within us which is indeed beyond us. To be clear, we will not play nurse to this sick and dying faith. We have, and do, and will fight to make the church just and open NOW. We will midwife a vibrant new Methodism to life even as the old passes away. We will grieve and we will celebrate. We will witness a final gasp as breath becomes air in these old wineskins. We will gasp for our first breath as the promise of new life fills our body.
I don’t hate those that hate, I pity them and the losses they will suffer for lack of the prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness of these LGBTQ clergy, lay people, and the potential new members who will never come as a result of the fear and hate they see. I pity us for what we lose in the expressions of difference and diversity they might bring. It seems the church thinks that by bending language it can bend reality. Unity by division? A hospitality of rejection? Hate in the name of love? A fidelity of betrayal? No. Not in God’s name. Not in God’s church.
As I came into the Methodist church, founded Collective United Methodist Church, worked with an amazing group of queer Christians to found Collective Cares | LGBTQ Safe Zone and Ally Community, we have been unapologetically open and affirming. We ACTUALLY welcome queer liturgists weekly, hear sermons and receive the eucharist from queer clergy from other denominations, celebrate same sex marriages, support and resource same sex parenting, baptize the children of same sex parents, celebrate Christian transgender naming ceremonies before God, support and resource the legal and spiritual needs of those in transition. Regardless of what the United Methodist Church does today, (at least these) two things will remain true for us: First, we will remain unwaveringly United Methodist theologically and practically, even as our polity evolves - praying, hoping and working to be the change we know is possible of the people called Methodists. And, we will remain open and affirming, and will navigate what that means for our relationship with the organization of the United Methodist Church - challenging injustice by the practice of love, even when that places us outside the boundaries of a dehumanizing, regressive and unjust polity.
Welcome! - Radical Hospitality means unconditional welcome - All are allowed
Welcome! - To our open table - All are allowed
Welcome! - We strive to avoid offense (First, do no harm) - All are allowed
Welcome! All are allowed.
NO ONE WILL EVER BE TURNED AWAY!
WE ARE COLLECTIVE!
We are a misfit faith community that gathers in DeLand on Sundays at 5pm. Come as you are.
We value highly the metaphor of journey. We’re different people from different places and backgrounds, representing an intergenerational community, and we’ve traveled different paths. So, we agree not to make assumptions about the person across from us, next to us, or in conversation with us. We challenge ourselves to be sensitive, knowing this community includes a diverse group of people from life-long followers of Jesus, to people who are just now open to the idea that God might exist. We strive to avoid offense, ask good questions, articulate and explain our responses. We don’t assume fluency in bible, spirituality, or Church language, because we believe the message of Jesus is not for Christianity, but for humanity. So, we do everything in the spirit of love and grace.