The complaint process has been formally resolved. I confess I signed this resolution with a heart full of complicated emotions. This resolution does not bring justice for LGBTQ people, within or outside The UMC. It does not say enough, nor does it do enough. It does not protect me or other LGBTQ+ people from further complaints. It does not heal the legacies of harm and oppression so long and still actively inflicted on our spirits, our lives, our bodies, our loves. Changing the policies of The UMC was not possible through this complaint process; I do hope, however, that this process and its resolution might contribute to a shift in how we practice those policies, faithfully undermining the unjust policies themselves.
Sara Ahmed writes, “Healing does not cover over, but exposes the wound to others.” I remain committed to cultivating the spiritual practices of healing, and exposure. I remain committed to earnestly and imperfectly seeking justice, practicing kindness, and journeying with the Divine, and with y’all. The impact of this resolution remains to be seen. I hope and pray, however, that it is Spirit-led and Spirit-filled, and invites deeper and sustained movements of justice, solidarity, relationality, liberation, and holy connection.
I do believe this collective statement, offered after countless hours of conversation, deliberation, wrestling, listening, and consideration, is honest. This honesty is, I believe, cause for both celebration and lament. The honest truth is that LGBTQ+ people are not fully and unequivocally welcomed, celebrated, affirmed, and embraced within The UMC. We face explicit and implicit prohibition, condemnation, and punishment for being honest about our lives and loves and ministries. I remain, according to official ecclesial policy, a “chargeable offense,” deemed “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
There is much to lament. And, there is some cause for celebration. I have been grateful for moments in this process that have materialized tenderness, connection, learning, and healing. I do believe there have been sincere attempts from each person involved in this complaint process to be true to our beliefs and convictions, to listen to truths that are not our own, and to deepen our relational respect for and with one another. I have listened deeply, and worked hard to practice openness, curiosity, and receptivity, while remaining centered and grounded in the Good News of God’s radical, subversive, unconditional, encompassing love. We have wrestled together through many days and nights, and I hope that even in our limping, we encounter and share blessing.
My deepest gratitude to Rev. Tyler Schwaller, whose constant companionship, deep faith, and incredible brilliance have sustained and nurtured my soul. Tyler has taught me about the meaning of queer kinship, and real ecclesia. He has always been a call, text, or plane ride away. Our covenant connection and collaboration runs deep, and is pure gift and holy delight. Rev. Kayla Bonewell and Dana Johnson’s marriage relationship continues to bring me joy, and manifests such obvious love and joy and connection. Thank you for the gift and honor of officiating your wedding, and for all you are and all you do.
I am also deeply grateful for the unwavering and bold support of the UI Wesley Center’s Board of Directors, who truly manifest and model our shared core values: courage; justice; authenticity; hospitality; community; and healthy & sustainable leadership. My amazing co-workers have shared the impact of this consuming process with generosity and grace. The students we have the pleasure of working with are a constant reminder of why this matters.
The queer kinship and queer ecclesia that holds me is deep and wide and I wouldn’t be here without y’all. You have sent poems and shared silence and given hugs and read me to sleep and held my tears and danced it out and taught me the sheer delight that can be found when queers find themselves tucked between a rock and a hard place. The faithful persistence and witness of Reconciling Ministries Network has saved, changed, and reconciled LGBTQ+ lives.
The organizing and mobilizing of the UM Queer Clergy Caucus has been invaluable in energizing and emboldening collective #CalledOut witness and faithful nonconformity. Y’all are gift. To all the LGBTQ+ United Methodists (and former United Methodists) who have dreamed dreams and shared visions and made paths and offered wisdom: thank you and bless you. And, I am grateful for the wide web of love and care and support y’all have shown me during this process. I am exhausted, but I am also renewed by your collective creative activism, deepened solidarity, bold witness, and generous support. Thank you for journeying with, in countless ways. Those of you who have contributed financially have helped to cover the significant costs of this complaint. Your material and spiritual support have been a reminder of what ecclesia and connectionalism can be. I will never be able to adequately express my gratitude. We are in this together. There is profound gift, and deep responsibility, in this togetherness.
My commitments in the complaint process have been: to tell the truth; to bear witness to the systemic harm being done to LGBTQ+ people through the policies and practices of The UMC; to confront the complicity of all continuing this harm through allegiance to these policies and practices; to take every spotlight and soapbox available to me to remind LGBTQ+ people that y’all, that we, are beautiful, beloved, holy, and filled with sacred worth; and to remember and proclaim and enact that justice is always, always, always intersectional.
As Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson, a mother of the trans and queer liberation movement, a black trans woman who dedicated her life to helping trans youth, and poor and incarcerated queers, proclaimed, “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” There is no LGBTQ justice without racial justice without immigrant justice without economic justice without ecological and planetary justice without gender justice without disability justice. Oppressive systems intersect. So too, must our movements of resistance, justice, and liberation.
The Mishnaic sage Rabbi Tarfon tells us, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. You are not obligated to complete the task of healing the world, but neither are you free to abandon it.” Whatever our position, role, or status, we are not free to abandon the task of tikkun olam, healing this beautiful, broken, and blessed world.
And, the queer poetprophet Andrea Gibson writes:
“Life doesn’t rhyme.
Life is poetry, not math.
All the world’s a stage
but the stage is a meditation mat.
You tilt your head back.
When your heart is broken you plant seeds in the cracks
and you pray for rain.
And you teach your sons and daughters
there are sharks in the water
but the only way to survive
is to breathe deep
There is no shortage of evil, injustice, and oppression in this world. We survive by breathing deep, and diving in, together. Planting seeds of justice, and caring tenderly for one another. Timidity, fear, and playing it safe is incompatible with Jesus’ teachings.
Straight and cis colleagues, and allies, the invitation continues: Be the church. Take thou authority. Break the unjust rules. Break them faithfully and boldly. Doing so is a pastoral as well as a prophetic act. Unloose the bonds of fear. It may cost you, but the cost of not doing so is far greater for you, as well as for your LGBTQ+ siblings in need of your deep and sustained solidarity. Listen deeply. Learn humbly. Love boldly. Share the risk. Do the work. The Spirit will meet you, and move.
Finally, I want to tell each and every queer and trans person, each LGBTQ+ person regardless of religious identity, spiritual practice, or faith tradition: You are loved. You are not alone. You can do hard things. We need each other. Follow joy. I delight in you, and I am utterly convicted God delights in you, too.
- 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