News and Views

Who Will We Be?

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Guest post by the Rev. Laura Blauvelt*

General Conference starts tomorrow…

I have a grandbaby not quite three years old who lights every corner of my world. It’s the way she runs towards me hollering, “GRANDMA!” and jumps into my arms with squeals that says it’s been way too long since we last embraced, even if it’s only been days. She is amazing with technology! She buys movies on her tablet which is linked into my account which is password protected. But there is this one thing that stumps her: Facebook Messenger.

Often, when we are video chatting, she gets so caught up in the conversation she forgets there are miles between us.

“Grandma, give me one minute and I’m coming upstairs. We’ll get under your quilt and talk about this.”

“Oh honey, I’m not upstairs. I’m at my house.”

I flip the phone around the room to give her a taste of my surroundings. Her face is not pleased.

“Don’t tell me that, Grandma. Just don’t tell me that!”

Truth is, as much as we both wish the distance between us could melt away as easily as the snow in Maryland, wishing does not make it so. Wishing never makes it so.

We stand in place in The United Methodist Church that seeks to deny reality as if simple denial will make a people, a place, a problem, disappear. The issue facing us at this General Conference is not a difference in theology. None of the Plans up for debate and legislative conversation request, require, or suggest a change in our Wesleyan understanding of doctrine, scriptural interpretation, or grace. Elected delegates will not be accepting or deferring a definition of human sexuality.

This Special General Conference is all about the gay community and the welcome The United Methodist Church offers to those folks who identify as someone other than heterosexual and cis-gendered. You cannot change the conversation the day before the Conference begins! You can’t eliminate the gender spectrum because it makes you uncomfortable to acknowledge that gender may not be as easy to understand as genitalia is to identify and you may not tighten your fists around church dogma as if Jesus himself dictated the ostracizing of any part of human kind in favor of another.

Let’s speak the truth to one another. Let’s acknowledge that the question here is really quite simple: will The United Methodist Church welcome the gay community or will we not?

The next four days will decide. And once the decision is made here in St. Louis, people will make a choice about continued membership in our denomination. Hiding our heads in the sand makes it hard to breathe and breathing is of God. Inhalation is the only way Spirit gets a foothold into our souls. God incarnate, living within us.

The globe is warming. Children identify with gender dysphoria in ever-increasing numbers. Every community on the earth has people who are not heterosexual. The mainline church is dying. Women still earn less than men and people of color less than that. Cancer still wins.

Denying that, ignoring that, arguing about it, does not make it any less true. It is not my opinion. These are not subjects to be debated in High School classes. Discuss best practices by all means; identity strategies to change the culturally defined norms that have no place in our emerging society; listen to the young people who have moved so far beyond the rest of us in widening the welcome from the lunch table to the church youth fellowship.

But please; please stop with the ignorance act.

The people who have been marginalized for too long have seen a great light.  No longer satisfied like the woman from Canaan, to eat the crumbs from under the table, folks are finding their voice.  The truth of the God I love through Jesus Christ is in justice for all not only the few who have been sitting at table making rules that do not affect their own lives. Truth, at least from the time of Jesus, has included a chorus of “set the people free.”

All the people. Free.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.

In my childhood, there was racial segregation between the black and white communities. It was illegal for couples of different races to marry and children conceived from mixed relationships were called names that we do not utter any longer.

When I was a child, I prayed for those children, at times weeping in my bed at the thought that they came into the world not belonging to either community, not fully welcome.

When I became an adult, I put away childish things.

When making the decision to adopt to create family it never occurred to me that as a white woman, I could not provide the love and security that any child might need to grow into a healthy adult. My children, both of mixed-race heritage, have taught me along the way. That’s what truth does. It changes us. It creates in us a new being.

The truth does not lie down for bishops, royalty, or presidents. It does not step to the side for pastors and the faith community. The truth cannot be swept under church pews or discarded for the birds like our communion bread. It must be spoken in the light of day. It demands respect and, until we give ear to the truth of Christ, we will continue to speak around each other and about each other instead of with each other.

And I’m here to remind you that The United Methodist Church can no longer afford to try to make everyone comfortable. Truth does not need our approval to exist.

The world is watching us, literally. And I find myself wondering, come next Tuesday, who will we be?

*The Rev. Laura Blauvelt is Lead Pastor at Potomac UMC in Potomac, Md.