I have tried to start this post for three days now. I’m hoping today it will work 🙂 I want to be sure I am writing in a way that is not critical of others through me just being overly emotional or invested in this, but I also want to be sure I am sharing my heart and being honest to what I believe is happening in the church this week.
To start off I want to thank the NUMEROUS amount of people who have sent encouragement after seeing how beaten down I was on Friday. It was an extremely hard day, but I have now realized it is a good thing that I felt that way because that means I truly do care about the future of our church. The people who can sit through meetings with such anger and hatred shared and not feel sad have become too comfortable with this. It is not okay that the church acts this way, it is not okay that young adults are only listened to- not really heard, and it is not okay that we have been saying we need big changes this General Conference and then shoot them all down because we cannot agree. I worry that too many people were voted to come here based on their beliefs and came here knowing they wouldn’t bend or break on anything they believe in. That is not strength, that is ignorance. I cannot even say how many things I have already changed my mind on, not because i am weak or a push over, but because I am open to new ideas and to the Holy Spirit and I know that I, alone, do not know what is best for the church. We are the church together. That, my friends, is strength.
Friday, in my Committee we discussed all of the petitions that had to do with membership. I had hope. I knew that there were a ton of petitions that had to do with inclusivity that had passed in other committee’s sub-committees, and although the had not passed the whole committee, just seeing that there were at least SOME people who wanted to have true open hearts, doors and minds, like I said, gave me hope. The first petition we worked on was written by Rev Sam Powers from Piedmont FUMC in Piedmont, OK. He is on our delegation, I’m so honored to be in ministry with him. Last General Conference this petition failed by only 14 votes. He and I thought that surely since it had been 4 years we would be closer this year. Just so everyone knows, this is what the petition says:
“Although the pastor is to educate and counsel the person seeking to unite with the local church which may include member-ship classes, God’s redemptive gift is available to all, and the pastor is to faithfully receive all who are willing to affirm our vows of membership.” Which literally means ‘all means all.’
When the chair of the committee asked if anyone wanted to speak on this, a man raised his hand. He said something to the effect of, ‘I speak against this petition because as a pastor I have had many people try to join my church (note: MY church) just so that they can get married there for a discounted price. That isn’t what the church is for.” ……really? You’re going to put limitations on membership for the FEW people who do that? And SO what if that’s what they want to join for? Is that going to effect your church budget? Is that going to stop your church from functioning or turn others away from your church? There is a church a friend of mine knows that has a big sign in front of their building that says, “WE DO FREE WEDDINGS”- now THAT is a church, THAT is ministry, THAT is open hearts, doors and minds. As soon as he was done I shot my hand up. I was so, so nervous but I knew if i didn’t fight for the oppressed, no one else would. Here is what I said:
“The church is not a club, it is a body of people who love God and Gods people, who have accepted the call to do Gods work. We are called to follow in the footsteps of Christ, and I am wondering how we are doing that if we are turning people away from Gods house. We reject bullying and judging, but we are doing this very thing by putting limitations on who is welcome in the church. In this petition clergy are given the responsibility to ‘educate and counsel the person seeking to unite with the local church which may include membership classes.’ I know there are many people who are afraid to take authority away from the pastors (or themselves), but it breaks my heart that we forget it is not our church to accept into or reject from, it is Gods. ‘God’s redemptive gift is available to all, and all who are willing to affirm our vows of membership should be received.’ Because of Jesus’ sacrifice we have all already been welcomed, and ALL of Gods children deserve a home”
No one else spoke for it. It failed. 8 for, 48 against. I knew before we started that this one would not pass in our committee because there were too many clergy in there who are not ready to let go of that authority. The other 3 petitions that gave the authority to the member wishing to join failed. I still had hope in one of the other petitions:
“All people are welcome to attend its worship services, participate in its programs and receive the sacraments. They may become members in any local church in the connection subject to the discretion of the local church pastor, (here was the added section up for vote) ‘provided that membership is not denied because of the applicant’s race, color, national origin, economic condition, sexual orientation or legal sexual practice in committed, loving, consensual relationships.'”
My friend Chris made an amendment to delete everything after “sexual orientation.” it passed by an overwhelming majority. Hope increased! I made an amendment to add “or gender or disability.” after sexual orientation. It too passed by an overwhelming majority. I was SURE this was going to happen. There were a few people who spoke against it because they felt that homosexuality was a sin and ‘we can’t have sinners in our church.’ A young adult man stood up and said, “Telling a sinner not to come to church is like telling a person who is sick not to go to the doctor.” We voted. It failed. 19 for, 38 against. What!?!? I was crushed. We were crushed. Every young adult voted for it. As this process happened I saw on Twitter that all of the wonderful legislation that had passed trying to make our church a mire inclusive church was all failing in full committees. I felt so defeated and I began to lose that hope I had. What was happening? We can’t grow or make Gods church better by staying the same! It’s like that definition of insanity that says that you do the same thing over and over and expect different results. It won’t happen.
I had many people came up to me and tell me that they would’ve voted for the second petition I fought for but they don’t like lists because, since you cant cover everything, someone will always be left out. This made me sick. I responded by saying, “By voting this down solely because there is a list included, don’t you think you’d be leaving more people out by not having this list than the number of people who would be left out if we did have the list?” To which he said, “That’s not my concern. I think ‘all means all’ and I wouldn’t turn someone away from my Church.” I then reminded him that he can’t make decisions just on how the local church runs that he is appointed at, he needs to remember there are people who are turned away from churches all the time. Then I told him that if he truly believes that all means all, then he should have voted for the first petition I spoke for because then no authority on membership is needed. He told me that that would never, ever happen and then I said, “with all due respect, I’m a lot younger than you, sir, and I’ll be in the church longer..and this WILL happen.” He just laughed, said i was right, then walked away.
Friends, the United Methodist Church is doing wonderfully on other continents, but in the US, it is dying. Why? Because we aren’t willing to change. We aren’t willing to adapt to what is happening in our country. We want Young Adults, which I alway thought was amazing, but as I am here I see that many people just want young adults in ‘their church’ for the numbers! They don’t want to hear us. The United Methodist Church says we need the Young Adult voice, but now we know they only want that voice if is saying the same thing they are saying. Now, I am not saying this only because of my committee. I am saying that in discussions with many other young adults here I have found that the same thing happened to them. The petitions that are working to make the UMC into a church that young adults will really want to attend is always turned down.
We were all told that being here as a young adult was going to give us a leg up, but now it has actually backfired! “You’re just young, you don’t really know what you believe,” “You’re just young, your ideas will change when you grow up.” No, friends. I will not change…WE will not change. We are a generation who desires to serve. We want to make a difference. We yearn to help, love, include and welcome. We reach out to the oppressed and still love the oppressor. We see the future of the church and we ARE the future of the church. I am here to tell you that if we do not change, our church will not survive. I love the United Methodist Church, however I have struggled thinking about how I will raise my family in a church that is not open to every person while I am telling my children not to judge and to accept everyone no matter what. I thought and I prayed about this and I realized that if all who felt this way left the UMC, who would fight for those who are turned away.
All day Monday – Friday we gather as all 998 voting delegates from across the world to vote on what we think the UMC should be. I only pray that we realize it isn’t what we want, it is what God wants. I pray we realize it is not our church, it is Gods church. I pray we realize we are not Gods church until every person is a part of it. I pray we open our minds, our beliefs, our ideas, our hopes and eyes to the future God has planned for us.
Again, thank you for your feedback, your messages, text and calls. They help and mean more than you know!! I love you all and I’m fighting for you!!!
Favorite Pictures from the last few days:
The set up from the service of repentance
We received rocks to keep in remembrance of our promises to make a difference
The interpreter asked them why they all wanted their picture with me and they said it was because I smiled and was interested in them, not just for their vote or to talk about petitions, but because of my love for them as people. we exchanged addresses and email addresses. God is awesome and love is global 🙂
My best friend from Zambia. He is SO cool! Spends his life working with and for youth.
Who would’ve ever thought we’d all end up in ministry together after all of these years?! These two are such inspirations to me, and have truly kept me going this week.
So great to remember God is present whether we pay attention of not 🙂
–please excuse any grammatical errors, this was typed on a smart device–