Friday, May 6, 2016

Dear United Methodist Siblings: A Letter as You Head to General Conference

Dear United Methodist Siblings,

It feels strange for me to write to you, because I am not one of you anymore, but I have come to the conclusion that I will always be connected to you. Through my family, my work, and my history, we will always be linked. I will always find myself talking with someone about your politics, your structures, and your struggles. We are still siblings.

And as you move into this time, you are starting to talk a lot about a deep part of me, my queer identity, part of what made it hard for me to be one of you, part of why I found myself walking away. But I am not writing to tell you to change your policies. I agree that would be fantastic, but more than that, I am writing asking you to not draw battle lines. I remember observing annual conferences and being a part of them, and I liked it until the sexuality battle lines were drawn, because you have been talking about this since before I can remember. One person stands up and asks for inclusion, another stands up and angrily quotes Bible verses, and it gets heated from there. People walk away certain that they were right and stood up for their beliefs and nothing changes. The trenches just get dug a little deeper for the next year when  you will have the conversation all over again, and the next year, and the next year.

United Methodist friends, I have felt for a long time like you just keep digging your trenches, drawing your battle lines, firm in your rightness. And I do have a side, I do have a strongly held belief about this too. But I'm convinced that Jesus did not draw battle lines. He got into heated conversations, but he still shared meals with everyone, Pharisee, Samaritan, whomever. He was able to hold his deep beliefs and reach out and share life with those whom he did not agree with. He didn't build trenches. And it's hard when someone else has a battle line and you want to cross it in love. There's a lot of uncertainty in how to do that. But more than anything, that's what I want General Conference to be for you. That's what I pray you experience. And some will walk away with their trenches dug. No matter what happens, your denomination will lose members after this Conference. It's inevitable. But my prayer is for you that if you attend, you are able to find someone you disagree with readily and build a relationship with them. I pray that you may truly relish in the diversity of beliefs and opinions within your denomination, the wide diversity of people and practices. And as you share in the body and blood of our Lord, may the Holy Spirit envelop your gathering and lead you into a new life together. Amen.

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