right now in western north carolina, in those beautiful mountains, a few thousand people have gathered at Lake Junaluska (one of my home towns in NC – i have a few. hehe). they are all members of the United Methodist Church – a Christian denomination that is world-wide. these people who have gathered this week are my colleagues, my friends, my mentors, my professors, my former ministers, my family. they gather every year at this time to meet and discuss the future of the UMC in NC and around the world. this year i’m not there. and it feels weird. i’ve never actually been an official delegate, but i’ve always been a part. so, being way over here in sweden and reading facebook updates & tweets about the conference makes me a little homesick these days. (but seriously thankful for technology)
i’m feeling so many things about the conference this year. a place where i feel i belong, but a place where i wonder if i do belong. hmm… that’s a strange statement. the church (any church) should always be a place where all people feel that they belong. and as a lay person (not a minister), i do belong. the thing is, i’ve felt that my life is meant to be something more, i have felt called to work as a minister in the UMC for almost 20 years now. and after a long journey, lots of education, and some years of experience working both in the church and in society, i had finally come to terms with my calling. just in time to be told that i could no longer continue on my path to be an ordained minister because i am a woman married to a woman.
i’m sure most people would turn their backs and walk away from a church that puts up a wall, a barrier, and a rule that prevents one from being able to fulfill who they were called to be. and i wanted to do that. i have tried to do that. i’ve considered other denominations & churches where i would be welcomed as a minister no matter who i love. but, i can’t do it. i am a united methodist from my soul. and my mom has also shared with me one of my granddad’s beliefs (he was a Methodist minister too): work for change from the inside. do not just leave. don’t bail when times get tough. don’t abandon, but transform.
so, i still have faith in the united methodist church. i still want to be a part. i want to be allowed to fulfill my calling. and i find myself thinking of this every day. asking the same questions over and over… how is it possible that i was stopped simply because of who i loved?! my gifts and talents did not change. nothing has changed about me. how is this showing God’s love? how is this accepting people as they are? how is this compatible with Christian teaching?! it’s not. so, here’s what i want. here’s what i think is most important in order to be a church with integrity, a church that is a place where people feel safe & welcomed. i want the UMC to vote to allow all people who are called to become ministers. i want equal rights in the church.
this is only one of the reasons i am so interested in conference this year, but it is an important one for me. i am praying and hoping that those who have gathered this week will seek their hearts and follow the example of Jesus, a man who always included and never excluded. i hope that those who are elected to our General Conference for next year (2012) will spend this next year searching their hearts for the answers and beliefs that best reflect the love of God for all people. no more pointing fingers. no more dividing words. let’s work together. let’s heal. let’s grow. let’s help bring about justice and peace.
here’s a video i ran across tonight. amazing. check it out.