“Of course they’ll let us in,” was my response soon after arriving at the Wespath office with my two five year old children.
My kids had been woken early and hadn’t gone to the bathroom. Having been warmly welcomed in the Wespath building on multiple occasions before, I was absolutely certain that two children needing to use the restroom wouldn’t be an issue. Being a white, cisgender, straight woman, petite in stature, with a slight southern accent, I am accustomed to the privilege of entering spaces unquestioned, being greeted with smiles, hospitality and open doors.
“I’m sorry, but only employees are allowed entrance,” replied the Glenview police officer stationed outside the door. This officer was present for us. In all the other times I have been to this building, never before was the front door locked, nor was a police officer present.
Today was a special day. This was the day the international body of 25 clergy and lay on the Commission on a Way Forward would gather at the Wespath offices.
My children and I joined the half dozen folks from Love Prevails and Reconciling Ministries folks to welcome the Commission (later a group of 25 folks gathered to greet them at the close of their day), reminding them of the import of their work, reminding them of the gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, queer, and ally members of The United Methodist church who have been and continue to be harmed by the discriminatory practices of our church.
Discrimination that is so fundamentally in opposition to the gospel of Jesus.
So we gathered to sing, to pray, to represent those across the connection. Folks have been present at every gathering of the Commission – never harming or threatening or engaging in any activity that would require locked doors or police intervention. The fear that would elicit such a response is deeply disappointing and disturbing, highlighting the fractures in relationship that would choose a police intervention instead of direct conversation with fellow members of the Body of Christ.
“Would you please ask someone else? Explain to them that my 5 year old daughter just needs to tinkle,” I pled with the officer. He went inside for a moment, conferred with a few of the leaders and returned to repeat, “Only employees are allowed to enter the building.”
I learned that later in the day that others from our group were allowed in – one at a time, accompanied by the police officer – to use the restroom. They have made additional accommodations for the gathered body to use the restrooms at two precisely scheduled times on subsequent days (as if potty needs are always so nicely timed).
As the Commission on a Way Forward gathered to consider the future of our church, the children were literally being locked out. I could go on about the sacrifices that pastors’ children make for the sake of the church…but for today, my two five year olds learned that sometimes people are so afraid of others that they shut the doors and keep them out. As my kids went to a quiet corner to pee in the grass (they are pretty happy campers), they laughed and embraced the new opportunities presented, the new creativity demanded…because the locked doors can’t stop God’s work…locked doors didn’t keep Jesus out, and locked doors can’t prevent children from being filled with God’s joyful Spirit.
Nonetheless, shame on us, Church…we can do better.