Tonight was not a good night for justice in The United Methodist Church. Once again, our denomination's top legislative body voted to keep the exclusionary language that defines homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching," and to deny even the possibility of ordination to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons. It hurts. I know, I felt it too, and I cried along with the delegates and visitors as hundreds sang "Jesus Loves Me" in a tribute to those left behind by our denomination. But I also have hope.
I have hope because of a few simple words spoken by Bishop Judy Craig in the summer of 2007. She said, (I am paraphrasing) "General Conference is one thousand delegates in one big room for ten days. But it is not the Church. The church is out there, in your communities, where people meet God every day, and all are welcome." That's why I have hope, because I know that the people I serve back in Niles are loving, caring, committed Christians, who would welcome anyone who came to their doors, and would love any person who truly wanted to be a part of their community. I also know that there are many more people out there like that, in communities all across the globe. Our United Methodist Church is bigger than the one thousand people in that arena, many of whom were elected either through name recognition or their position on this very issue.
Ultimately, my faith in God and in Jesus Christ is not dependent on the words and actions of General Conference. My faith is based on the love of God, which I have experienced through the sacrificial love modeled by Jesus, and lived out by the people around me--gay and straight, conservative and liberal, Methodist or not.
Now, for my friends Mary K., Bob, Jane, and Tim, here's the story I told you all at breakfast this morning. For everyone else, it may be useful for you, too.
What I Learned from the Labyrinth:
Once, when I was walking and praying the labyrinth at Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland, Ohio, I encountered a man who was walking the opposite direction. That is to say that as I was walking in toward the center of the labyrinth, he was walking from the center out. But, for a short time, we were on paths that were directly next to each other, and we were walking in the same direction. Even though we had different goals, we were both on the same journey. It is this way for us in life also.
I hope it helps. I know that I joke and get a little silly at times, but I really do care about these issues, and about all the wonderful people I have come to meet because of this General Conference. No matter what decisions are made here in Fort Worth, I will have discovered a new part of my Christian family tree, and that is worth the price of admission.
God Bless, and Pray for the Delegates and Staff,