Giving birth is hard work. Usually we go to the birth process wanting the baby but not the pain before the baby is born. We even use painkillers, knowing it will help us for a time, but no matter what, our body will need time to heal, for our blood pressure has risen, our heart has been stressed, our abdomen muscles have had a continuous workout, our breathing has been erratic, we have lost sleep, and, well…to put it bluntly, our flesh has been ripped apart. And so we need to heal. There is time to heal.
But the reality is, we heal while we are caring for the beautiful newborn child God has sent to us.
Being present in the stands at General Conference 2019, I recognize we’ve been in labor pains these few days. It has been intense, and painful. It hasn’t been pretty. In this birthing room are people who differ on how to read scripture, and how to love God’s people. In this room are people who are being harmed daily, and people who perhaps don’t understand the great harm they are bringing about. In this room are those who will coach, and those who labor, and those who will catch the newborn as she/he springs into the world.
We learned some things this conference that we didn’t fully grasp before. We learned that scripture, reason, tradition, and experience is not a foundational ideology for some people. The WCA and its followers are determined in their view, and are not currently ready to hear, learn, discern, or grow. We learned that sharing our heartfelt stories and pain does not make their hearts grow warm. We learned that strategic power means more to some than the power of the Holy Spirit. Ouch. That was a hard one to learn.
We also learned that all our efforts fell on deaf ears. There is no hope for us to remain unified as we go forward. As one who has fought for unity in the church, that last sentence pains me to say out loud.
At the end of the session last night, our LGBTQIA+ siblings in Christ went to the lobby while the last legislative nails were hammered into our coffin. They were denied entrance to the floor, and so they sat and knelt on the floor of the lobby outside the closed, locked, and guarded doors. The line of police officers between our siblings in Christ and the locked doors of the Conference was intimidating, and stunning in its metaphoric message. The Traditionalists in the United Methodist Church have closed, locked, and posted guard on the doors of the Church. They have locked out those who Jesus was sure to include: those society had previously shunned. The Traditionalists in the United Methodist Church have become the Empire that makes the rules and takes the profits. The Traditionalists in the United Methodist Church have chosen the way of the Pharisee over love, and they are doing it using their own form of Cleanliness Codes.
I do not recognize this United Methodist Church. She is not the one I fell in love with when I switched from Lutheran to Methodist. I loved her for her ability to bring people together around scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, and for the claim: If we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? And for her standard of setting aside minor differences and coming to the Table together. Last night, our LGBTQAI siblings were denied entrance to The Table.They were literally locked out. And that was the biggest rip of flesh I have ever experienced. The Body was torn apart by denial to The Table.
It was painful. And we must stop and take a moment to acknowledge our pain. And to heal.
But the beauty is: we got to see the newborn baby last night! While sitting on the floor and standing to sing our hope, someone brought out the bread and the cup. And Holy Communion was served to all. All were welcome outside the locked doors! You could say, the Baby was born outside the doors of the Powers-That-Be. And, She is beautiful, smart, courageous, hope-filled, and tender. She loves God with a passion, and she has decided to love people with a similar passion. Her flesh is brown and black and all the shades of cultures around the world. Her song is strong and melodic. She will be held, and nurtured, and fed as She grows.
The newborn Baby is beautiful and strong in love. We just gave birth, and some did not even notice! And she has already tasted her first communion in a new day.
Welcome to the world, Baby!