We are Intertwined
Standing in Solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ and allied brothers, sisters, and siblings at the UMC General Conference
I used to think I was descended from a long line of Presbyterians on both sides of my mother’s family. I took great pride in saying that the Presbyterian faith nurtured my mother and her parents and their parents, particularly as that faith led my grandfather to protest racial injustice with the NAACP at segregated churches in Baton Rouge, and led my grandmother’s parents to leave a church in Tulsa, OK after it refused to desegregate. I used to think this lineage led to my own commitment to justice for marginalized communities within the denomination I call home. However, I recently learned that two of my great grandparents were United Methodist, and that their son, my grandfather, only became Presbyterian when he married my grandmother. Looking back, I should have known that my past and my path have always been entwined with the United Methodist Church. I am who I am because of the faith nurtured in my grandfather through the UMC. In truth, I am who I am and the PC(USA) is where we are because of the work we’ve done in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ and allied brothers, sisters, and siblings in the United Methodist Church.
In September of 2011, a mere two months after prohibitions against LGBTQIA+ ordination had been removed from the Presbyterian Book of Order, I stood on the stage at the “Sing a New Song” Convocation co-convened by Methodist Federation for Social Action and Reconciling Ministries Network. The convocation gathered 700 Methodists to prepare for the 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church for yet another attempt to remove discriminatory language from the Methodist Book of Discipline. My role on the stage that day was to share a testimony from the work we had done in the Presbyterian Church (USA) to ratify Amendment 10A. I shared then that I was a “hope evangelist” here to testify to the power of one-on-one conversations about LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the church. The Methodists gathered were about to launch a phonebank, calling people across the country who would be coming to General Conference. Later that year they would plan protests and vigils, actions to draw attention to the plight of LGBTQIA+ folks who had been left out of the UMC. Those gathered at General Conference would wear rainbow stoles lovingly crafted by people in the denomination who supported LGBTQIA+ inclusion.
For decades the organizations supporting LGBTQIA+ justice within the mainline protestant denominations have been sharing wisdom, sharing heartbreak, sharing prayers of support to encourage and nurture one another in this difficult, messy, unpredictable work.
Today the delegates of the UMC Special Convention are voting on plans for the UMC. Our prayers are with those organizing to help the UMC see the LGBTQIA+ people in their midst as beloved. When the final votes are tallied one thing will remain the same, we are intertwined in the muscle and flesh of the One Body of Christ with our UMC siblings.
When I started seminary in 2005, my mentors, who are ordained pastors in the Presbyterian Church, told me that they worried the PCUSA might not change their policies around ordination for openly LGBTQIA+ people in their own lifetimes, but they hoped the policies would change in mine. Because it felt like the PCUSA may never change its policies, I seriously considered changing denominations and switching to the United Church of Christ. I took the UCC polity class and even helped co-lead the UCC student group. Many people around me pointed to the more LGBTQIA+ affirming policies of the UCC and said I would find a home in that denomination. Some people even implied that NOT switching to the UCC was a foolhardy idea, asking, “Why stay with a denomination that doesn’t support you?” What I learned in my exploring during seminary is that I am deeply Presbyterian. Changing denominations would’ve felt more like changing my skin.. I decided in 2008 that I loved the PCUSA too much to let it off the hook for discrimination against beloved children of God. So I stayed, and I worked, and I witnessed, and I volunteered with More Light to help change policies and build a church that reflects God’s heart.
To my siblings in the UMC who love your church home, who know that a vote cannot erase your existence, but who mourn like a parentless child for a denomination that has hurt and disappointed you: we see you and we love you, and we will not stop working alongside you until the Church universal reflects God’s heart of abundant love for everyone born.