I’m still here

(I know, a pig the other day, and bulls now…)

And that’s a choice.

I’m a Taurus (in fact– shameless plug for well wishes– my birthday is tomorrow). If you believe anything at all about astrology, that should tell you that I am stubborn. Perhaps my decision yet again to remain United Methodist in the wake of the past two weeks is simply a manifestation of my inner bullish nature.

I hope it’s more than that.

I wrote a while back about why I’ve remained United Methodist so far, and most of those reasons remain. However, of the four points I listed, two were challenged: our understanding of grace came up for a vote and passed by a measly 53%, and our use of interpretive lenses (the “quadrilateral”) was scheduled for a vote and never made it to the floor. A third point has been significantly diminished: by removing guaranteed appointment, the church eliminates a safeguard that has protected women and persons of color in ministry for years.

The theology I love about United Methodism remains, for now. Prevenient grace. Unconditional love. Personal and social holiness. The structure that allows for our ministry remains, for now. General Boards and Agencies that equip local churches. Democratic organization. Lifting many voices.

But what also remains, and can never fully be expunged, is the tremendous harm the UMC does to people at the margins, most especially in this time and place, to persons in the GLBTQ community. This isn’t a political conversation or an issue to debate. These are my friends, people as close to me as family. These are names and faces, arms that hold me when I weep broken-hearted onto their shoulders and laps when it’s really them who deserve to be weeping. Tears I have shared and dried when they let the safety walls down for a minute. Hands I have held, sweaty-palmed, while votes were cast. Laughter and hope I have shared in small miracles, or as a way to chase away the shadows of sorrow.

At some point, one wonders, when does my continued engagement in a body that can be so abusive signal my complicity with that abuse?

Some of you are bold enough to ask me that (and know that I can hear it and love you and trust in your love for me, still). Some of you haven’t asked but wonder, maybe, if I think it. I do.

So why am I still here?

Not theologically, but personally.

I could be UCC. I’ve got a lot of friends in that denomination, and I bet they’d help me get in. I’d even get some control over how often I move. I could join the voices calling for churches, or conferences, or jurisdictions to declare themselves independent. We could be the United Methodist Church of New England. Or the Northern Methodist Church.

But I’m still here.

I’m giving it one more try, in part because of the hope I named. There are two reasons:

1. Because I can. That’s not meant to be flip; I’m deadly serious. For many of my friends, remaining is not an option. When the abuse is lobbed at you personally, it comes to the point when it may be time to go. But since it’s not me, I can stay and fight for inclusion. And because I can, I kind of feel that I should.

2. I’m not leaving anyone behind if I can help it. If I get out, my church, my conference, my jurisdiction, where does that leave my congregants, my colleagues around the connection, my friends in the Southeast Jurisdiction? As one aforementioned tear-bedecked dear one reminded me, I’m staying around to be there for the GLBT babies straight Methodists keep having, to baptize them, teach them, serve them communion, and doggone it marry them.

If we can find a way to stay connected, to be the church I love, to find and articulate those thing that are essential, where we seek unity, maybe we can all give each other the freedom to live and serve as one diverse body. And that’s better for everybody, I hope.

So maybe this one last time, I’m giving my all for a church that practices the grace we say we believe in, and that orders itself with love and compassion around Wesley’s rule to do no harm and do all the good we can, and I hope we can someday live into his invitation: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

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23 Responses

  1. The best way to impact change is from the inner circles. Your voice can’t be heard if it isn’t present.

    • Very true. and I’m also trying to speak for others whose voices are silenced. Blessings!

  2. Becca,

    You don’t know me but I think I want to be your best friend. No, I’m kidding, but I HAVE enjoyed reading your blog ever since Jeremy shared one of your posts via facebook (I also love all your shout-outs to Brad L. because we are both Iliff alums!)

    I just wanted to tell you I was reading and that I feel SO grateful for your leadership, your courage, and your presence as a colleague. Blessings and an early “Happy Birthday” to you. 🙂

    Peace,
    Tiffany B.

    • Tiffany, I take random, never met in person best friends! And if Brad’ll vouch for you, you have to be cool.

      Peace and justice to you,
      Becca

      • Hey, it worked for us.

        And thanks for articulating your reasons for staying put, at least for now, which–though I am less publicly vocal than you–are pretty similar to mine.

        And happy early birthday, young’un!

        Love,
        Clay

  3. I stay because even though we seem to cause so much harm, those harmed stay. I support them and in many cases ( you know who you are) have asked them and encouraged them to stay. This is my denomination by birth. I am a fourth maybe even fifth generation Methodist. I am a product of this church. I love the church for many of the same reasons you do! Luckily I was raised in a church that was loving,open , and reconciling for the last 17 years. I hope someday lose that status and only celebrate as part of our rich history. I hope we lose it because it will simply be how the Church is, no special statement needed. I hold on to hope at least for the next four years.

  4. What a wonderful post! Maybe it was just me being naive but I found the UMC’s vote surprising. My concepts of grace and love were formed in a Methodist church. I’m disappointed but I’m not going anywhere.

    Change comes from the people who stay 🙂

    • Here’s hoping! I found the vote surprising too, and I found others expected, but no less painful. We press on.

      Justice and hope,
      Becca

  5. I think this resolve is important. It is indeed those on the inside that can shepherd change in a more timely manner. I hope you have a fabulous birthday!
    ~RevHez

  6. I am not a Methodist by birth. I came to this church in my pre-teen years primarily because I thought I heard God telling me to be here. So, 12 years later, I’m still here. I don’t know whether I should have hope or not. But, I’ll still be here for a while to come.

    • Thanks for sticking with it, and going where you feel God calling you. May our church do the same.

      Blessings and peace,
      Becca

  7. Great post, Becca. I too believe we can impact from inside better than outside the system.

    • That’s the hope, anyway! At the very least, I’m making it hard to work around me.

      Meddlin’ for justice,
      Becca

  8. I’ve been of two minds about staying/going over the past few years, but then, I’m a Gemini; my b-day’s coming soon, too! I seriously thought it was time to go last week, up until Friday evening, and now I don’t want to miss out on #dreamUMC! I also hope one day that a Bishop in Wisconsin will appoint Amy DeLong to be my pastor.

    • Donna, I look forward to your voice in the conversations ahead! Blessings and justice,
      Becca

  9. It truly felt as if you were writing my thoughts and feelings. Thank you for sharing!

  10. What was the proposal with the quadrilateral? I keep hearing about it in a vague sense, but don’t know what was going to come before the delegates.

    • It would have rewritten it to affirm the supremacy of scripture which was Outler’s (who first used the term ‘quadrilateral’) and Wesley’s view.

      • Respectfully, I would disagree with that characterization. It would have stated categorically that Scripture is superior to tradition, reason, and experience, even when all three are taken together. This, in my mind, holds up a false assumption that tradition, reason, and experience are meant to be at odds with scripture in the “quadrilateral” model. I do not see them as competing sources of authority. The three are interpretive lenses through which we appropriate and understand scripture as it relates to its context and our own.

        That’s my read on it.

        Blessings,
        Becca

  11. […] am also going to echo some of the thoughts that she posted in next post, “I’m still here.” There are some who would have individuals like Becca and I leave this church, this denomination. […]

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