Two weeks ago today, on Maundy Thursday, I learned that another formal complaint has been filed against me. I am being charged with two offenses, in accordance with ¶362.1 of The United Methodist Book of Discipline: “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual” (¶2702.1[b]) and “disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church” (¶2702.1[d]). This is the third formal complaint brought against me in the last two years (plus a Judicial Council process seeking to overturn the eventual dismissal of the first complaint). This is the second complaint brought against me for “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
This charge has been initiated by someone I have never met, though we have shared space at United Methodist events. He lives in another state; he makes his money and spends his time going after LGBTQ people, and seeking to make The UMC a place where queer and trans people will be judged, condemned, and converted from our queerness. I am choosing not to name him, not to shield him from the consequences of his actions, but because I do not want to be part of drawing attention to or giving a platform to someone who writes hateful things and has done incredible harm and inflicted spiritual violence on friends, colleagues, and beloveds of mine.
I can only imagine what brokenness, pain, and shame he is experiencing, to work so hard to bring brokenness, pain, and shame to others. I wish for him healing, and a conversion from his harm.
I have not, nor will I deny or hide my queerness, nor my love.
My queerness has been and remains a source of holy encounter, sacred delight, spiritual wisdom, faith-filled connection. My relationship with my beloved is full of joy. I am deeply grateful for this love. And, I am deeply grateful for the wonder-full webs of queer kinship and beloved community that make life livable, in and through it all.
Everything has been swirling, acutely uncertain, since learning of the complaint. I’ve been confronting my weariness, and anger, and fears. The pain and spiritual violence being inflicted by The UMC through its action and inaction is relentless, and incompatible with Christian teaching. I do not know how this complaint process will unfold, or where it will leave me. I do believe that the hard times can open us to holy wisdoms.
I do not want to leave The UMC. I do not want to lose my clergy credentials. But I am also unwilling to stay in a denomination or keep my credentials if doing so requires staying silent about things that matter, being dishonest about my life and love, living in fear, or cowering in shame. This is sinful and incompatible with sacred teaching.
I have seen the harm done to colleagues and friends who are forced into silence and pressured into closets. It is unfair, unhealthy, and unfaithful that The UMC and its institutional leadership expect this. It is unfair, unhealthy, and unfaithful to prioritize institutional unity over the lives and loves of queer and trans people, and those who love us.
The UMC will not find a faithful way forward if it continues to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
I also do not want to lose or leave my job at the UI Wesley Center. I love working with the students who find community, belonging, and spiritual formation there. Every gathering with them is holy. They are courageous and kind and brave and wise, and they deserve a church that does better. They are working hard to create a world that is more just, more kind, and more hospitable. Journeying with them is gift and delight.
To LGBTQ siblings, known and unknown to me, know this: You are beloved. You are beautiful. You are perfect. You are filled with sacred worth. Your belovedness is written into your DNA. You are not alone. You are gift and glory.
To you who are, or are seeking to be, allies (in The UMC or elsewhere): We need you. Confront the injustice. Name the spiritual violence. Resist complicity and complacency. Use your institutional power and privilege. Push back against narratives of unity that leave no space for LGBTQ lives and loves. “An unjust law is no law at all,” preached King, quoting Augustine. Manifest faith rather than fear. Stop the cycles of abuse. Resist the colonial and racist narratives that are being sown in The UMC by white conservatives in the US, pretending there aren’t LGBTQ folks in every place around the world. Remember that justice is always intersectional, and there can be no sexual justice without racial justice without gender justice without economic justice without ecological justice without disability justice without immigration justice.
The healing salve of salvation calls us to the collective work of repair, of reparation, of tikkun olam, of caring for each other tenderly and fiercely, of enfleshing liberation from delight, of resisting evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Silence is holy and powerful in prayer and contemplation; silence is deadly when inflicted in order to shame and isolate.
Audre Lorde wrote, “We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
May it be so.
- An open letter to the UMC - May 3, 2018
- Formal complaints filed against Rev. Anna Blaedel…again - April 12, 2018
- Resolution reached on complaint filed against Rev. Anna Blaedel - June 5, 2017