I never knew that I could be so disappointed in something that I love so much.
Like many of you, I sat on the edge of my seat February 23rd-26th as the 2019 General Conference gathered in St. Louis so that a decision could be made about our denominations way forward regarding (1) United Methodist pastors officiating marriages between homosexual couples and (2) the ordination of practicing homosexual individuals in the UMC. To shorten what could easily be a novel – The One Church Plan, which many including myself, believed to be our best shot at unity and inclusion of all God’s people, was not passed onto the plenary session. At the plenary session, however, the OCP was presented as a minority report by the ever so graceful, Rev. Tom Berlin, but after a vote to substitute the Traditional Plan for the OCP was taken, the OCP was shot down once again. The Traditional Plan was passed on the final day of general conference, which is essentially what we currently already have in our Book of Discipline, but with more accountability (as I understand it – I admit I am still educating myself).
My heart sunk as I watched the Traditional Plan get passed at general conference – I really had myself believing that the One Church Plan could be our way forward. News about this decision spread fast and I watched as my social media feeds flooded with posts about it. I refrained from commenting, sharing, or making any immediate posts on Facebook because I didn’t want to do so out of anything but grace, love, & hope – all things I felt very far from after the Traditional Plan was passed. I needed to process what had just happened and what it may mean for our church moving forward. When I process things, I tend to retreat – I step back, I journal, I pray, I think, I reflect, and I want to be alone to allow space for that. I am not much of a verbal processor, so after the decision was made & I had person after person asking me what my thoughts were, I’d simply shrug my shoulders and opt to change the topic, or offer a, “I don’t want to talk about it yet.” I’m easing my way into having the desire to talk through it with people and I will have those conversations as I find myself up to it.
I think right now we are all just feeling different things. Some people are disappointed, sad, confused, frustrated, and some people are happy & thrilled by this decision. I know I have definitely felt many feelings and am still going through all the motions, and also know that I am in no way done processing the decision that was just made. I’m definitely scared & uncertain for the decisions that will be made in the near future regarding our denomination. The reason I didn’t want to even write this post was because putting it in writing allows space for it to sink in and become real, and I really wish it wasn’t real.
Our denomination may split and I don’t know what all that will mean.
Many are weeping right now. & I believe Jesus is weeping with us.
Right now, entering the doors of a United Methodist Church is an action that I am reluctant to take and the thought of preaching in a UMC is unfathomable. The thought of coming to the table for Communion and hearing the words “all are welcome – this is God’s table” or seeing our UMC motto, “open hearts, open minds, open doors,” seems like the most hypocritical thing in the world. I, like many of you, know people who are contemplating leaving the denomination already. I know people who are close to me & part of the LGBTQ+ community who don’t know if they can stay. I am praying so hard for every person hurting from this decision and especially for our LGBTQ+ sisters & brothers who are questioning whether they can remain in the denomination or not – the denomination they love and have grown up in, but the denomination they have just been let down by. I am also praying for every United Methodist pastor as they lead their congregations through this all. I admire your leadership, especially because there’s no guide book on how to lead through something like this when everyone, including the pastor, is feeling so many different ways.
I’ve grown up in the United Methodist Church. 22 years I’ve been part of this denomination & I am on the path to becoming ordained in this denomination. I love this denomination more than I could ever put into words, verbally or in writing. & I think the reason we’re all hurting so deeply is because of our great love for this Church – we envision so much more for our denomination than what we’ve just decided at general conference. But I do have hope for our Church & faith in our God, even if that hope & that faith is as tiny as a mustard seed at times.
I do not know what general conference 2019 means for the future of our denomination and I think most of us are in the same boat in terms of that ‘unknown.’ We might split, we might not, but we may, and what does that mean?
What does this mean for the future of our denomination? What does this mean the UMC will look like for young people aspiring to be in full-time ministry in the denomination? What does this mean for me as a certified candidate as I enter into seminary this fall with the intent to be ordained in the UMC as an Elder?
I don’t know.
I don’t know what the way forward is or will be.
So I’m clinging to what I do know:
God is still God. People are still people to be loved. Our LGBTQ+ sisters & brothers are still part of the body of Christ – no vote will ever change that. God calls who God calls. No human being on this earth – no vote – has the ability to disrupt that. No hate has the power to drive out any of that. My biggest task as a Christian, and as an aspiring pastor, is to love people. I will continue to do that forever & ever.
I will walk into a United Methodist Church on Sunday to worship at my home church, & I will get up into the pulpit and preach once again in a UMC next month, because I know I can still do my part to love, do no harm, and do good in this denomination. I am here to weather this storm, to love my neighbors, to do no harm, & to do good. I am here to do everything I can to push us forward, because of my love for the Church I grew up in, and for my love for my LGBTQ+ United Methodist brothers & sisters. We are all part of the Body.
I have too much love, by the Grace of God, to hate any of this, and though I may ‘hate hate’ I rest in knowing that hate ultimately will not ever have the same power that God’s love does.
So may we cling to him, and believe that God is going to do what only God can do. Nobody can prevent it, nobody can overcome it.
Love is stronger. It’s stronger than anything, because GOD is stronger than anything, and God is Love.