if you have ever eaten with me, you may have noticed that i usually finish last. as a kid, i remember my family eating and then beginning to clear the table when they were done. my mom began washing dishes, my dad began putting away the food. everyone was moving around the kitchen and i was sitting at the table. just left there.
ok. the whole being left at the table thing wasn’t as traumatic as i may have made it out to be. it didn’t/doesn’t bother me at all. but, it was a memory that was triggered in me today because of the other table where i have been left. yes. there’s another table. and i’ve been left there…
as i mentioned before, this past weekend a bunch of united methodist ministers and members gathered for their yearly conference in my home state (NC) in the USA. during this weekend my friends, colleagues, mentors, and brothers & sisters worshiped together and discussed issues within the UM Church. they voted on delegates to send to the 4 year General Conference of the UMC (the governing body of the entire UM Church worldwide). they discussed budget and money issues. they voted to change the structure/leadership of the UMC connection in western NC. and they decided to table (= put aside, leave alone, decide not to make any decisions or even discuss) some important social issues. excuse me? say what? we’re gonna focus on money and bureaucracy instead of issues involving justice and equality? we’re gonna focus more on the practical issues of the institution rather than face the difficult discussions we need to have in order to work towards the inclusive love which I believe God calls us to embody? seriously? have we forgotten why the Church is here? where is our focus? how can we be the Church if we don’t reflect the open, accepting love of Jesus in society and within the Church? how can we just put aside important social issues? how can we leave them at the table?
let me share with you the words of a current seminary student who was at the conference this past weekend. she’s following the same ordination path i was on (and she just happens to have been one of the youth at the church where i worked for 7 years! yes. i’m proud.). i’m overjoyed to now call her my friend and my colleague! anyway… here are her words and reflections on the conference happenings:
“Although attending conference was a good experience, I am disappointed that the voting members decided to table all discussion of human rights, including the clauses that address homosexuality, the resolution on the Middle East, and immigration. I know that the budget and General Conference are important, but is money and voting really what the church is about? Shouldn’t we about proclaiming God’s word and working toward justice and peace? The church as an institution FRUSTRATES me to no end. We spent time arguing about and voting on downsizing our districts from 15 to 8 (a decision I don’t personally agree with) to save 1.5 million dollars, but we’re going to table important social issues and allow another year pass while God’s children continue to be marginalized, plagued by war, discriminated against, and labeled “abominations” and “illegal.” I can’t express how much my heart aches.”
amazing words from an amazing young woman! you can follow her journey here.
so, as one who is affected by these decisions to not discuss these social issues, i have been left at the table again. one more year where i am unable to continue my journey toward ordination. but, there’s still hope. there’s always hope. my ordination may be tabled, but my ability to be in ministry is definitely not! i can be used exactly where i am, and i have no idea what lies ahead for me in the upcoming year. and now, we also begin praying and preparing for the General Conference next spring… that’s where real changes can actually occur! it is possible and every little step helps.
i have faith. things will change. it takes a long time, but, we will make it. justice, equality, and love will win. and no one will be left alone at the table again.
thanks to j, i received an update/clarification on the whole “table” thing. it’s true that the conference last week refused to discuss the social issues i wrote about above; but the additional information i have now is that they were sent to the Connectional Table (a group of delegates from around the world who discuss/vote on issues). so, they were not forgotten about completely… just sent over to other people. there was no discussion of these important petitions at the conference last week. no one spoke about them at all, just sent them on their way. something for others to deal with. still, i don’t think that’s right. still, there was a willingness to talk about budgets & structures, and an unwillingness to face difficult, controversial social issues. still, i feel… ugh about it all.
peace always. to all of you.