Saturday, March 29, 2008

Another Great Post at the RMN GC Blog

Antony Hebblethwaite just posted another wonderful reflection on the RMN General Conference website.

How can I walk beside still waters?

I know that I am supposed to find God on Sunday mornings and feel bad about how difficult that is for me, like somehow I am betraying my faith and my faith family by feeling oppressed instead of worshipful there.

I walk into my Methodist Church with my partner Derrick and sit in that beautiful space. As we celebrate God's love in song, I am reminded that my human experience of love can’t be celebrated there. I wonder if my inability to know God's love relates to the exile of my own love from this place. I remember attending Broadway UMC when Greg Dell was suspended from ministry for marrying a gay couple in a Methodist sanctuary. I think about Jimmy Creech and Beth Stroud who refused to place limits on the human experience of love and were defrocked by the Methodist Church. My mind is drifting again and I can’t focus on the hymn.

The pastor steps up to the pulpit to deliver the Sermon. I am reminded that it is authenticity about my sexual orientation that prevents me from standing there. I embraced authenticity and a dark summer of depression in 1994 after I graduated from Seminary. I have never been allowed to pursue God’s call on my life. As I listen to the Sermon, my mind drifts through 14 years of economic hardship as I tried to piece together a career with a theology degree. Things got especially hard for me five years ago when the economy stalled and I had to leave Chicago and take a job as a Starbucks Barista in Bloomington, IN. I am reminded of the cost of authenticity with every letter I fold at Reconciling Ministries Network asking the delegates for justice. When I am introduced as the Executive Assistant to people with successful careers in the ministry built on keeping their love for another human being closeted, the loss is hard to bear. I missed most of the Sermon.

It is not that I judge closeted clergy. Look at my degradation. Maybe choosing authenticity over my call to the ministry lacked basic wisdom. The Sermon is over.

I sit at my desk at Reconciling Ministries Network overwhelmed. I read an email from my parents who held me in their arms as a baby while a Methodist Pastor dabbed my forehead with water and baptized me. My parents write:

Papa and I realize that you have many talents and skills the Lord has given you and that you have worked hard to develop these. I wish we could celebrate with you, but we can’t. We can’t support the agenda you are proposing at the Methodist conference. We are deeply grieved that you would use all these God given gifts to propagate something that, according to Scripture is morally wrong. We will continue to pray that you come to understand the truth and the truth will set you and Derek free, knowing that God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love, mercy and faithfulness.

I told my parents I was gay 14 years ago. I’m distracted by anger. My parents started their faith journey in the Methodist Church and baptized me into injustice. They are the very kind of people I will face in Fort Worth with their established explanations that render them morally pretentious and blind to their own ethical obtuseness.

I glance over at my job description taped to the filing cabinet: “Ongoing United Methodist connection to community/congregation preferred.” I am wondering how I can do this? Instead of providing the still waters I need to experience God, attending a Methodist Church creates the dissonance of memories – of shunning and subsequent hardship for an unchangeable quality of being.


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