The following is the article I wrote for today’s church newsletter. (For those of you who may not know, I am currently serving as the pastor of the United Methodist Church of Palm Springs, a congregation that is about 50% LGBTQI and has a huge mission to GLBTQI people in the community and beyond.) It’s been a really hard and heartbreaking week. Thankfully we follow a faith tradition - and scriptures - that tell us that hard and heartbreaking weeks never have the last word.
WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED!
As you may now know, a majority of UMC delegates from around the world voted at our recent Special General Conference to not be a denomination that wholly welcomes and includes LGBTQI brothers and sisters. This has been a painful, ugly debate for many years. And it’s really not about who should be included in our church as much as who should be in power. Other issues underly what’s been going on, too: should Methodists take the Bible seriously or literally? What should a Christian understanding of other faiths be? These are but some of the issues. Majorly unfortunately, it’s the hurtful brouhaha about the welcome of LGBTQI persons that has been put in the spotlight. It can seem that this is the only issue in the current debate. It’s not.
In any case, it has been a very distressing several days for me and for you and for many many Methodists. Especially our Methodist LGBTQI brothers and sisters. The good news is that the Western Jurisdiction, the geographical UMC body of which we are a part, has been supporting and instigating full inclusivity for ALL for quite some time. AND our WJ leadership has made it clear we will continue to pursue this, our call, even if means we birth something new.
What will happen as we journey onward I do not know, but I have faith that something wonderful is afoot
I was especially touched by the several UMCPS’ers who were able to join together in our sanctuary last Tuesday night, after the SPG had concluded. I wanted to make sure everyone knew - knows - UMCPS highly values making safe space to vent frustrations, to shed tears, to answer questions, to share inspirations and hope, and most importantly, to simply and authentically be with one another.
In our informal worship service, we sang uplifting, helpful hymns; we heard powerful scriptures and meditated on them. We shared information and asked questions - Will our ministry to LGBTQI have to change? (ABSOLUTELY NOT!) What should we call ourselves if the UMC is no longer? (For the time being, I’m place-holding with “Untied United Methodist Church” and “The Palm Springs Church of Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Doors”) What about our property? What about our apportionments??
As I told folks at our Tuesday service, I at present don’t know the answers to some of your excellent questions but promise to investigate and let you know when I do.
We closed our time together passing around a candle and offering prayers. Among the prayers lifted up was a plea to remember Jesus died and then three days later joy came - comes - with the morning; to remember God is with us always; to bless our continued efforts to reach out to the needful and lost all around us; to remember God’s light shines on the next step we are to take, not what five steps down might be; to have the courage to love those we love, those we have yet to meet, and most importantly those we fear; and to bless and keep our joy-filled, fully inclusive congregation well in the midst of the storm.
I was truly filled with hope hearing the depth of wisdom and faith in these prayers as well as witnessing the depth of love all extended to all. Even though we don’t know what the future holds, and it will be undoubtedly confusing, confounding and messy (just like it was in Jesus’ time!), I believe we’ve a special mission - even more special than before - to be a community that courageously leads God’s dream for our world onward “for such a time as this.” And isn’t afraid to have a fun time doing so.
What a beacon of light we will continue to be in a world addicted to chaos, controversy, cynicism and fear. We shall not be moved!