As I took a moment to reflect this past week I found myself noticing the coming spring. It is always good time to notice change and realize what change is happening around you. Preparing for GC2016 has come amidst a flurry of change in my own life: future plans for my career, joys of planning family life, seeing where my daughter will go to school next year, the blossoming of ministries planted in the past, and the everyday growth of being a young clergy who is raising kids and balancing work and family life.
In the mail yesterday I got a book that is pretty much contained everything I stand against in the world and church. In that same day a friend of mine posted a great quote from a Methodist woman in the late 1800’s “If there is friction here, who are at fault but those who made the line? If foam breaks against the wall, the builder is responsible, not the sea” ~Mary Griffith, 1880. The author of the quotehand wrote this to the 450 delegates to a General Conference pleading for the full inclusion of Women in the church. It took the church until 1956 for us to change our understanding and to include women in the Church. That is a strange thought for me who has served with two women Pastors who I value as mentors and for a man who’s only Bishop while under appointment has been a woman. Why did it take us so long?
Now we approach this current General Conference and I hope for massive change. Creating space for LGBTQ people into the full life of the church is something I value deeply. The book I mentioned earlier that was pretty awful, it contained the idea that somehow the change requested in the church was some kind of conspiracy of LGBTQ to destroy the church. In my experience it has been the opposite, those LGBTQ that have remained in the church despite discrimination build it better and more diligently than some of us who have privilege dripping from our ears.
“We are not there yet.” This is the line shared by significant female leaders in our church. We still have great work to do to include women fully into the life of the church and now we have a responsibility to see the change of all people, sexual minorities too, must be included into the full life of the church.
Bishop Talbert and Rev. Val Rosenquist performed a marriage of two men in North Carolina about two weeks ago. My initial response was to be concerned that perhaps the action was too dramatic and would harden the people we are trying to convince that change is needed. Then in prayer and reflection I began to doubt this course of thought. God calls us in John 17 by praying for all who put their faith in God and reflecting that Christ will be in us. The action was not dramatic it was just, and Christ was active in the Bishop Tablet and Rev. Rosenquist because they prayerfully considered what was the way to welcome change into our midst. What better way to do this than to invite in faithful partner committed to living out a Christian life together.
Then something transformed my heart. 15 of my colleagues in New York came out and shared there identity as LGTB or Q. I call them colleagues having never met them because in faith they stepped out, at risk of losing their hope for a career offering love to their communities, and they in turn have solidified my resolve as a white straight male clergy in Montana to stand with them. Change is in the air, it may not come how we expect at this General Conference, but it is coming because of the faithfulness, and the Christ filled hearts of the people who risk greatly to overcome those who would conspire against them. May we conspire not with this world, but with the God who loves us to see change come.