Today in the Central Texas Conference, Bishop Mike Lowry shared these words with the Executive Clergy Session. His words are hard for many reasons but an important one is that he is choosing to interpret the statement of the Council of Bishops in a most painful way. Certainly, he can recognize the dilemma they set up for themselves – promising to both mitigate the harm against LGBTQ people while still upholding the Book of Discipline. A complicated endeavor, to say the least. Where thousands of United Methodists and allies are urging the Bishops to halt the harm while the commission does its work, Bishop Lowry is choosing to prioritize one aspect of the Bishops’ plan over another. Most of us are used to this kind of cherry-picking. We see the same interpretive choices used on our scriptures and our Book of Discipline – both of which make contradictory statements requiring more thought than a simple “it’s clear” if we hope to be faithful.
Nonetheless, the Bishop turns to the #WeAreMore campaign as if it would be some sort of salve for the wounds of ongoing injustice in our church.
My favorite thing about the #WeAreMore campaign – clearly meant to distract from conversations of equality – is that it inherently draws attention to what it’s trying to get everyone to look away from by inviting the question, “wait, we’re more than what?”
We are more than our bigotry.
We are more than our contribution to the bullying and suicide of LGBTQ youth.
We are more than our complicity in the murder of trans women of color whose death rates are not even on our radar because we apparently don’t care.
We are more than the careers of faithful ministers we end.
We are more than the trauma we cause in the LGBTQ people navigating the call to ministries we encouraged.
We are more than the lay people fired from their jobs in our communities because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
We are more than the families we destroy by teaching that “love” looks like refusing to accept people for who they are.
We are more than our refusal to acknowledge that we cannot end the things we say we care about like housing instability, poverty, immigration injustice, colonialism, racism, or sexism if we remain complicit in our anti-LGBTQ ways.
We are more than all of that because “unity,” because “making disciples,” because the one campaign we did that one time.
If ever there were an uncompelling message for younger folks asking me and my friends why we stay in The UMC, or church at all, I think this campaign really nails it.
Sweeping LGBTQ people under the rug will never be the solution for a struggling church. I simply cannot think of anything less reflective of a strong ecclesiology.
I long for the day our church’s messaging campaigns aren’t created to deflect from our injustices, but instead are meant to be products of such an incredible community we are dying to have new people be a part of it. It would sound something more like:
We are a humble community, willing to learn and grow and repent and heal on this journey rooted in sanctifying grace. We recognize we have not yet arrived in perfect Christian love.
We are a diverse community, aware that we are only our best selves and are most reflective of the Divine, when everyone, from every social location, is celebrated for the glimpse of God they are.
We are a community of service – to one another, to our neighborhoods, and most especially, to those who most often go ignored.
We are opposed to systemic injustice – every. single. kind. of it. We understand that the gospel message requires us to actively work to dismantle all forms of oppression.
We are people of grace, compassion, authenticity, integrity, and most of all – love.
We are open to the Spirit, not fixated on our interpretations of old, but open to God using the gifts of tradition for new works of grace in us and in the world.
We are fresh thinkers, creative, fun, generous, and we even laugh at ourselves sometimes.
I don’t know when the institution will start that sort of messaging, at least, not authentically, but I know that there are many Reconciling Communities who could say this accurately describes who they are. I’m so thankful for that. You are giving The UMC a much better name than it deserves.
We, those seeking LGBTQ equality and an end to injustices of all kinds in The UMC, #WeAreMore than the church that would rather sweep us under the rug.
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