Around the world every Sunday, and throughout the history of our tradition, Christians have greeted each other with the words, “Peace be with you.” But lately, United Methodists greet each other with: “Which plan do you support?”
We are a church, and church is messy. While that question may reflect what is foremost in our minds, it is a far cry from our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Where in “which plan do you support?” is that mission? I can’t find it.
Where in that question is support to the gay child in the church youth group who was just told he is going to hell? Where is the trans senior who is ill and needs help getting to the doctor? Where is the young lesbian called to ministry who is told she is less than just because of who God made her to be? Where is the gay refugee who fled to the U.S. because being gay is criminal in his home country and who now just wants to find a church to call home? Where is the LGBTQ business person who has risen to the top of their field but who is not welcome as they are in The UMC? Where is the young person experiencing homelessness, kicked out of her home because she is “incompatible with Christian teaching”? Where are the two gay youth who were beaten for holding hands? Where is the outreach to the trans person who was just banned from serving their nation’s armed forces?
The question we should be asking is: what are you doing to ensure that if any of the folks above show up in your church on Sunday, they are welcomed with open arms – just as they are?
Friends, this moment is not about plans. It is about the lives of people you see every day. It is about being the Church in a hard-enough world without barring our doors to those who need us most. The question we should be asking is how we can be the Church to those outside our doors and how we feed those who are hungry.
None of the plans before us today are likely to pass in their current form. This General Conference should be about how we show up as the Church, not the plans. Will we show up as a church that loves LGBTQ folks and wants to be in ministry with and to them, or as the Church we are today? We say that God’s grace is available to all but we don’t act like we believe it.
It is okay that we are not at the same place. It is not okay that we continue to treat some of God’s children as less than or that we continue to call anyone “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The process that brought us to this point has been dehumanizing to LGBTQ folks: we were not mentioned in the call, and we have not been well-represented in the process. There is not a single plan on the table that affirms our lives and loves, and yet there is one that explicitly attempts to kick us out of the Church. When we have been mentioned, it has been under the label “human sexuality,” as though we are somehow more defined as humans by our sexuality than cisgender, heterosexual people are. This label has removed LGBTQ people from the discussion. One of the most frequent questions I get in the lead-up to General Conference is whether LGBTQ United Methodists and their allies are going to disrupt this General Conference and scare people.
Here is my question: why do LGBTQ people have to be disruptive to be seen and heard or to be worked with instead of talked about in The United Methodist Church?
When things don’t work, they require disruption. Biblical Obedience and Altar for All (among other campaigns) did just that. For decades, our beloved Church has carried a wound that has brought us to this point. When we come together at General Conference, will we be ready to take up tools of healing for the sake of the Church, the sake of God’s beloved LGBTQ children, and the sake of Christian witness?
However we move forward at the end of this month will certainly shape the future of The United Methodist Church. More importantly, it will send a message to the world about how our denomination will respond to a world in need of a Church.