I still hear the crying from General Conference. As posted in several places (although I read it on Jeremy Smith’s facebook he has a great website ) both sides are ready to pack up in leave. The good old boys are pissed that they didn’t get their way on restructure. The liberals are pissed that LGBTQ stances have not changed. Young adults are angry that their voices are not heard or when they are heard they seem to be tokenized. Bishops are angry that protests happened on the floor GC. Other Bishops are sad that the church is still intentionally excluded people and do not know how to heal the hurt they see in our souls. We have no idea how to be a Global church and live in partnership and harmony together. What are we going to do?
Well if your answer is to leave or not pay your ministry shares, to basically stomp your feet pick up your ball and go find some other playground, then I am offering you a heartfelt good bye. I am sad to see you go even if I disagreed with you theologically or doctrinally. However, just like the kid at the playground who picks up his or her ball and leaves, the other kids do not simply leave and go home they find or create another game to play. I am those kids, I am staying. I am going to work with the others who stay to find a creative, inclusive way for the United Methodist Church to continue. So if you leave just like the kids on a playground I will be sad to see you go, but I am not going to follow you nor am I going to grab on to your shirttail trying to make you stay put. Quite honestly I know that the church cannot stay as we are now. I know that we will run out of money and run out of people in the United States. However, what I know we will never run out is God’s love and grace.
I mentioned this several times when I was at GC as angry and as hurt as I was that if we are here fighting we are here fighting for a reason. We want to save something, even if it is just some small piece of the UMC. The reason to fight was not to break away or create our own thing. If leaving was what we truly wanted you don’t show up, you don’t take a stand, you don’t spent countless long days fighting. You take stand and you walk away. You send a letter, you stop sending money, you take down your cross and flame, change out the hymnal, you burn the book of Disciple, and let the courts decide who gets your building, and even then if you really are serious about leaving you give your building over to the annual conference and let them deal with, for there are certainly other buildings to be had. In fact you don’t write blog after blog, open letter after open. or have hours long discussions. You make one statement and you leave. So left and right I am calling you out, neither one of you wants to leave. If you did you would be gone.
Even, as I write this I know I was in your shoes. I seriously considered leaving. I considered it so strongly that it caused a pretty scary fight with my best friend. I was ready to leave. I spent 45 minutes crying and hours on the phone talking to dear friends ( both religious and not) about how gut wrenching this decision could be. Asking, ‘How could my church be so cruel to my friends?’ ‘How could my church actively try to silence the voice of women and minorities?’ ‘How could I tell my friends who know where I stand theologically and politically ( although my theology certainly influences my politics) and just my general personality and character that I was staying in this church?’ I asked ‘What will my friendships that were form inside the church look like from the outside?’ I was seriously considering walking away. It pained me.
Here is what I decided. The United Methodist Church raised me. It formed and continues to form me. The theology, the hymns, the Sunday school classes, conversations at summer camp, an undergraduate degree from a United Methodist school, time at a United Methodist seminary, time pastoring a United Methodist Church and now serving as an associate conference lay leader, have encourage my relationship with God and probably outside of my family had the greatest impact on who I am today. I cannot, let me repeat, I cannot simply walk away from that. I am not saying that at some point won’t. In this moment it seems even more important that I stay. I am not staying in order to dig my feet into the ground and get my way. I am staying to work with those who agree with me and work with those who disagree with me to continue a United Methodist Church where people can meet Christ in others. Where people can be challenge by the stories and teachings of Jesus, a church where we challenge one another to grow in love. I cannot think of one friend or family member, even though I love them completely, with whom agree with 100% not one! We can be a family. We can agree to disagree. What we cannot continue to do is point fingers and place blame, we cannot continue to exclude. We cannot do this because Jesus did not do this and that is who we must follow. Even Jesus got frustrated with his disciples, and His disciples got frustrated with him. They stayed, Jesus and the Disciples stayed together. They listened, they learned, they cried, they loved. Most importantly they loved. They loved God, they loved each other.
I am staying. I hope you will stay too¸ and not just stay in name. I hope you stay in full participation, because the spirit is not done with us yet and that is why I am staying.