Thursday, May 3, 2012

We are a Broken Church but We Will Heal

There really aren't words for what happened this morning during the debate on homosexuality in the church. After petitions were raised saying that we as United Methodists differ on this issue but still love each other, hateful words were shared. One of the translators even had to apologize before she began to translate the cruel harsh words said about lgbtq people that one delegate said. As we voted, we stood along the sides of the bar to be in solidarity with those outside of the bar. The petitions were then voted down and the UMC's stance on homosexuality did not change.

I don't really have much to say other than I am hurt mostly because of the hate expressed during the debate. It was totally uncalled for. Once recess was called, many people gathered at the center communion table inside the bar to weep, pray, and share communion at God's table where ALL are welcome.

I knew it was going to be bad. I knew hurtful things were going to be said, but I never knew how truly painful it would be to see the hurt across all of my friends' faces. I saw this one young man from Tennessee  just sobbing and walking around, not knowing where to go. He had no friends from home who stood with him to comfort him. The was what hurt the most. That this person was in so much pain that he did not even know what to do and had no one there to tell him it was going to be ok. I went over to him and rubbed his back, but there was nothing else I could do for him.

No matter what your stance is on this debate, I urge you to forget it and just pray. Pray for the people in pain. Pray for the people who said hurtful things. Pray for everyone at General Conference and for other United Methodists across the world.

If you want to know more specifics, click the links below. I have no more words except to say I am not giving up on God's call to minister in the United Methodist Church because of this. God put me in this place for a reason and if I, along with others, run away, the necessary change will not be able to happen. After all, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Amen.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Shake It Out: What Happened to the UMC?

Today has been rough. I could sit here and write for days about the things I am upset about, but it wouldn't be very productive. It will show some of what I am hurting about, but hopefully I will also be able to shed some light on the situation as God is trying to do for me.

I had to refer back to twitter to even remember all that happened. As many of you know one of the biggest pieces of legislation the UMC has been dealing with is the restructure plan for the church. I was on the General Administration committee all last week and watched the hours and hours of work my fellow delegates put in to coming up with a plan that many (including myself) felt was a good compromise. As you know, this plan was voted down along with all of the other plans. This morning a new plan was brought forth. It was in the DCA (Daily Christian Advocate) yesterday and had only been created over a couple of days. Now we were supposed to vote on this new plan called Plan UMC (go to for more info) when we only had a very short amount of time to even read, let alone understand it. Many people got up and argued that we need to do "something" because the whole world was watching (I don't know if I agree with that sentiment that the whole world was watching). While I agree that we do need to do something to revitalize our church, I don't know if I think restructure will help. Furthermore, if we are going to restructure, we need to take a careful look (as in more than a few days) at what this means and what effects it will have on our local churches (not JUST on the general church level). I do not believe that doing "something" for the sake of doing something will be successful. We cannot just put a bandaid called Plan UMC (or any rushed plan for that matter) on all of our churches that can easily fall off; there simply needs to be more care taken. My other issue with taking action on restructuring is that there is a daunting, fearful anxiety in the convention center. I do not this is conducive to making an informed, reasonable, logical, heart-filled, or God-filled decision. We need to take a breath and pause so we can actually feel the Holy Spirit moving through us.

The main part of this new Plan UMC that I, along with many others, did not agree with was the "Committee on Inclusivity." It was claimed by creators of Plan UMC (4 out of 20 were women, majority of the 20 were white) that this committee would do the work of GCORR (General Commission on Religion and Race) and GCSRW (General Commission on the Status and Role of Women). Currently these agencies exist in order to monitor our church and make sure those who are usually marginalized and not given a voice (women and people of color--in this case) are not forgotten. Both agencies also do a lot of important advocacy and work to minimize (and eventually eliminate) racism and sexism in the church and in the world. By getting rid of these agencies, they will not be able to do the necessary monitoring our church needs. You can say that the work will get done as much as you want in this "Committee of Inclusivity," but the new committee is not even a board; it is under a new board of GCSO (General Commission on Strategy and Oversight). This means that the "monitoring" of sexism and racism will get bogged down by other business and eventually forgotten. Furthermore, how is it supposed to do monitoring for GCSO when it is part of the board? More importantly, the General Secretaries of GCORR and GCSRW got up and spoke about how they do NOT want this and how this new committee would not allow their important work to be effective. (FYI the Gen. Secretary of GCORR tweeted that the implications of keeping these agencies separate would only be a 1% increase of funds). Creators of Plan UMC had previously said that these General Secretaries along with "everybody" (whatever that means) were included in the creation of this plan. This was a blatant lie. People from MFSA were not included and the neither were the General Secretaries of GCORR and GCSRW (according to their own words).

When the motion to amend Plan UMC by keeping GCORR and GCSRW separate agencies failed, I lost a lot of hope for the UMC. This vote clearly showed that we do not believe racism and sexism are important issues or even exist anymore. I spent my entire college career learning about the issues of racism and sexism and how they are rampant in our society. I spent years learning about how we can work for social justice to fix these very important and relevant issues. All of that just went out of the window. I do not even know anything else I can say about that except that it is a slap in the face to many who a part of the UMC.

 After a couple more minor amendments, the new restructure plan was passed. However, because of the possibility of constitutional and financial effects, it was sent off to the Judicial Council and General Commission on Finance and Administration (GCFA). So UMC, get ready to embrace a whole new church. All I kept saying to myself was "what did you do with the church that I loved?"

 At this point I did not really know how to feel. What happened, happened. We have to accept it and figure out where to go from here. The votes that kept going through always came out 60% on one side and 40% on the other. When it came to the vote on supporting our hurting Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters, we at least agreed to create a Resolution to do so in our Social Principles. However, when it came to taking action, we once again stalled. The issue is that Israel is oppressively occupying Palestine and taking over more and more of their land. One great (in my opinion) way to take action against this oppression and support Palestine (which we just resolved to do) was to divest from big corporations supporting this occupation: Caterpillar, Motorola, and HP. I just want to clarify that in no way am I an expert on this issue. I am getting my information from fellow delegates and with that information it makes sense to me that divestment is the answer. Also, those who had witnessed in person the horrible and violent oppression of Palestinians gave testimony saying we NEED to divest because negotiations from these corporations were not working. In the end, specific wording to divest was removed from the petition and much softer language passed, not creating a definite statement that the UMC supports divestment.

As I said yesterday, I am upset about the decisions made, but I am even more upset about how they were made. There were blatant lies said, manipulation going on, and backdoor deals being made. I know, I know this is church politics, but what happened to the church part? This is not the loving, grace-filled, Jesus-following denomination I know. However, all we can do at this point is "Shake it Out" ( and trust in God.

I want to conclude with a conversation I had with a hotel guest (not from general conference) on the elevator last night. She asked me what I was here for because she saw my name tag. I explained that we as the UMC meet every four years to vote on our social beliefs, doctrine, and discipline of the church. She looked at me for a minute, the elevator dinged, she stepped out, and as the doors were closing said, "Does Jesus get a vote?"

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Where is the Love?: Another hard day at GC

Today has been a hard day for many people at General Conference and in the greater United Methodist Church. Tough decisions have been made, trust has been broken, and morale is low for many. However, God is still sending messages of hope and light through a time of anxiety and darkness.

The confusion started this morning as delegates gathered for opening plenary. Part of our parliamentary process includes going over items on the “consent calendar.” These items are often grouped together and voted upon quickly if they are not pulled off of the consent calendar to be discussed on the floor. If you accept the consent calendar as it stands it means you are voting to pass the committees’ recommendation (when asking a delegate about rules regarding what would happen if the majority voted no on the consent calendar she told me that has never happened; you would just get signatures to pull items off of the consent calendar).

 Now that you are caught up to speed with this process (hopefully), I will continue with the issue that occurred. The issue of guaranteed appointment to a church for ordained elders (ordained pastors who are not deacons) was on the consent calendar. The consent calendar was then accepted by a large majority. All of a sudden chaos broke out all over the “twitter-verse.” I do not think a lot of the delegates on the floor realized what they had just voted on. They had just voted to get rid of guaranteed appointments for pastors because that was the recommendation on the consent calendar that they accepted. I started tweeting the mistake (in my perception) to a seated delegate on my delegation and she was able to inform others. It turned out that my perception was true and many of my fellow delegates voted to accept the consent calendar without realizing what was on it.

Finally the head of our delegate got up to make a movement of reconsideration which was met by many relieved facial expressions of those watching and those on the floor. Of course we had to vote on whether it could be reconsidered and with a very shocking and upsetting vote (for many, not all) the reconsideration was shot down. In other words there would be absolutely no discussion or debate on guaranteed appointments; they were no more.

The feelings many of my delegation, including myself, struggled with were not those of winning or losing the vote. Our feelings were hurt because there was no discussion, no consideration of the voice of those who were affected by the decision. I am still not sure if I agree with guaranteed appointment or not because I can see both sides. On one hand it allows for the ability to remove ineffective pastors. On the other hand it creates room for discrimination and oppression as pastors could be deemed “ineffective” when it is really because the congregation does not like that they are a woman, person of color, gay, or many other identities that are considered the “minority” group. Another issue that arises with this loss is that young clergy are very unlikely to own assets, specifically a home, to go to if they do not receive an appointment. This is a personal concern for me because I am going to seminary in the fall, right out of college, and I am counting on my housing to be provided because I will be a pastor. Where will I go if there is no appointment for me or if I am deemed ineffective by a church that can’t see past my sex/gender or age? What about a pastor who is going to retire in two years who has never owned a home in her whole life and her husband is already retired? What if she needs to leave her congregation (for whatever reason) and isn’t given another appointment because what church would want a new pastor who will only be there for less than two years? Where will she go? What about health benefits? These are the questions that delegates were not even allowed to ask. 
Whether you are for or against guaranteed appointment, I think it was very unfair that there was no discussion or consideration of the reality many pastors could and will now face.

Shortly after this issue occurred, another petition was brought to the floor regarding the preamble of our Social Principles. There was a motion to amend and amendment to the recommendation to say that “we stand united in declaring our faith that God’s grace is available to all, that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” The original amendment used specific wording (which I cannot seem to find now that I try to look it up) about what cannot separate us from the love of God. The wonderful young woman who got up to make this amendment to the amendment quoted Romans 8:38-39 which blatantly says “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” And yet there was still debate as to whether God’s grace is available to all and if anything could separate us from His love.

At this point, another delegation member and I held hands and started humming Amazing Grace as we waited for this ridiculous vote. It still boggles my mind, and the minds of many others that this was up for vote. One of my tweets in that moment was “I wish God would come and say ‘how many times do I really have to tell you that I love you and everyone. Get it together UMC.’” When the votes finally came in, the motion was only accepted by 53%. Only 53% of people on that floor believed that God’s grace is available to all and that nothing can separate us from the love of God. I really do not know what else to say to that except “Lord have mercy.” I am still not completely over it, but all I can do is thank God that it passed. I am really sick of the people (and I know it is not everyone) who are seeing General Conference as a game that you win or lose at; this has REAL implications on the local church that are going to become evident once these rules go into effect.

Now for the hope part so I don’t make everyone else depressed. Despite all of this chaotic mess, I have found small places of hope throughout this day. I have been able to have wonderful and sincere fellowship with members of my delegation that I didn’t previously know. I have had delicious gelato (which some of us have decided is a gift from God) that has led to great connectionalism in the UMC. I have also had genuine, open, and honest holy conversations with people who do not agree with me on important issues that have been AMAZING; I am so blessed to have had those (that one probably gave me the most hope today). Finally, as I walked back for worship tonight and clouds were gathering over the river, rays of sunlight started breaking through those clouds; it was truly a beautiful sign (see picture below).

At this point all I can ask for is prayer. I do not know what is happening to our church because it does not look like the United Methodist Church I know anymore. I am not just talking about how the rules are changed, I am talking about the rudeness, the sneakiness, and the dishonesty I have seen when we are supposed to be Christians and love each other. I do not apologize for this “Debbie-downer” of a blog post because it is the truth of what it actually happening at General Conference. I know that I am not perfect and this blog post is not about me sitting here and complaining about things not going “my way.” It’s about how we need to start acting like the Christians we claim to be; that should be our “Call to Action.” I am sick of seeing the hatred and harm from both sides of the playing field; it isn’t right. So please, please pray for us and I know that many of you are (I thank you), but we really do need comfort and peace because our church is broken in more ways than one.