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.
Very well put. I really admire your loyalty and perseverance to continue to support the UMC when it obviously has yet to allow you into ministry. There are a lot of really great things about United Methodism. It’s so frustrating that it also has that major aspect of exclusion. This week I’ve been doing a ton of pre-reading for my United Methodism in the 20th Century class, and for the first time in my life I actually KNOW something about annual conference. And then here it is, happening right now. Crazy.
Based on what I’ve read so far of our history, change does happen. It just happens agonizingly slowly. And it takes extremely loyal and committed individuals (and groups) to bring it about. We can do this.
You are so right, Carissa!! Change will come. I truly believe it, and I will hopefully be a part of it… if even in the smallest ways!
Thanks for this post. I do totally agry, and hope our great church take the next step. I think it is on its way! Lots of hugs, Charlotte
It is definitely on it’s way, I think! Thanks for your comment! Miss you. I hope to make a trip to Denmark this fall… perhaps?!
What a wonderful post. Your dedication and determintation are wonderful. It must have been very difficult for you to make up your mind as how you would go forward and I admire the courageous steps you are taking. Perhaps your calling is much more then being a Minister. Perhaps you will be the one to change this unfair belief. Good luck to you and best wishes for success!
GInger, it has been a long journey or trying to figure out where I fit in… and not just related to this issue, but in many areas of my life. But, now, I feel so confident in who I am and who I am called to be. I just live my life day by day, seeking to be true to myself. And ultimately, while I want to do ministry within the Church, I know that I am ministering no matter where I am or what I do. Hopefully, my life becomes more and more intertwined with ministry, and I simply live. Thanks for your comments & support! Have a great day!
I know Art spent time working with parachurch organizations when his faith first came alive, but he also made a conscious decision to “work from within” the denomination more for renewal of vitality than for any specific agenda.
God has taken you on a very torturous (as in indirect) route to get you where you are today. I enjoy seeing you work that out that plan in your day to day life, as described in your blog.
Very powerful video! Thanks for the link.
Thanks for reading, Barb. It means a lot to have feedback and to hear your thoughts as well. Yes, it’s been a long journey, and it continues. But with support, inspiration, and guidance from many people in my life (including your family!), I am more than equipped for the long haul. 🙂
Your both so welcome here, if you come to Denmark! Could be great seeing you again and meet Lina!
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