Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bishop Robinson

How are you supporting Bishop Gene Robinson?

Are you praying for him daily?

Have you written him a letter of support?

Are you naming him in the "prayers of the people" at your church?

Are you starting conversations about his prophetic presence?

I was shocked again yesterday when he was asked in an interview on NPR to respond to the claim that he is distracting the world from more important needs and just drawing attention to his one issue.

How long will GLBT people be seen as a distracting issue?

What will it take to realize that we are people?

Is it that hard to believe that we are faithfully living out discipleship but are being oppressed by discrimination and fear and hate?

I thank God that I am living at the same time as Bishop Robinson and can learn from him and support him.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Frank Wulf is a true Saint!

Have you read that Frank Wulf was willing to serve our church as a bishop? Every candidate gave the church a gift by being willing to serve, but Frank's faithfulness was of a special kind. By identifying himself as someone called and ready to serve as a bishop and also a gay person, Frank is helping us all to continue to grow towards being a more honest and prophetic church.

The article on United Methodist News Service is definitely worth the read, you can also listen to Frank's statement. You'll be surprised to read there about the "FOX News/politics of fear" style of threats being made by Maxie Dunnam. Goes to show that even when God is doing a new thing, somethings never change. We can always count on God and... we can always count on some other things too.

As a delegate to Northeast Jurisdictional Conference, I was surprised to realize what a big impact some candidates for the episcopacy had even if they weren't elected or didn't get many votes. The power of the prophecy shared in simply the biographical statements and resumes shows a need for a new type of leadership. People are ready to serve AND they were elected.

In the Northeast, the majority of candidates for the episcopacy either served Reconciling Congregations at some point or were actively involved in supporting ministries to and with GLBT people. They represented a wide range of theological beliefs and visions for our church. That's because Reconciling is a grassroots movement that is inclusive of many people and points of view. Our church's leaders are being mentored in the Reconciling Ministries Network, RMN is strengthening the church in many ways. Adult Education, Liturgical Renewal, leadership training, congregation self-examination, encouraging small-group formation- this is what RMN is all about.

In the New England Annual Conference we've been reading "I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church" by Paul Nixon, and sure enough the journey to becoming a welcoming church is lifted up several times as a great tool for revitalizing a local church. The point in that book isn't simply that welcome to GLBT people makes for a better local church (though of course it does) the point is that conversation, learning and dedicating ourselves to specific ministry are essential to healthy churches.

Reconciling Ministries is strengthening the United Methodist Church.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nine more things...

I want to share a few beautiful moments that I know you will love but that my exhaustion before prevented me from sharing...
Some highlights!
1) After a very fun service recognizing the retirements of Bishops Fisher and Morrison, the Mark Miller Band broke out into a ten minute postlude... We Are Family, by Sister Sledge

2) The NEJ affirmed clergy in CA who perform same-sex weddings!

3) Heterosexual allies affirmed gay and lesbian people with prophetic words from the floor- clergy, lay, different genders and races and annual conferences- people are telling the story.

4) Gay and lesbian spoke up for ourselves, beautifully and bravely claiming our life in the church, at the center.

5) The NEJ is coming to terms with the poisonous racism that guides our actions. The crisis is clear and the need to change our behavior. Now it is time to walk the walk. (not really a highlight now that I type it, but God will help us.)

6) As the church moves to restructuring, new relationships and ministries at the "Jurisdictional" level are being born.

7) The NEW England Annual Conference will soon include Vermont!!!!!!!!!

8) God loves you.

9) There is a balm in Gilead.

Friday, July 18, 2008

So why am I crying?

I've had tears tonight.

But why?

When Peggy Johnson signed her acceptance speech after being elected Bishop she told us that she prayed she will be remembered as a Bishop who worked for social justice and
loved with the heart of Christ. And she will be. This is a beautiful day.

But our sisters are turned against each other. People are forced to stand with GLBT people or people of color. There are only crumbs left for the deaf. The center is guarded by those ravenous few who live by an unholy spirit. Those with the power are so deeply, deeply afraid of even the smallest risk.

I am so tired of waiting. I am so ready for God to act now.

I am so ready for God to act now.

There are some days where I think it is going to happen, when I think I know what that will be like. But then night comes and I have so many tears.

You know I believe.

My faith has never been stronger. But I have never acknowledged sins so clearly. I have never felt pain so stinging. I have never seen the road stretch out for so long.

I have never had such reason to be happy.

So why am I crying?

God bless this church.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is the day.

I am now really serious about getting the right thing done and I think it is going to happen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Job Interviews

When the nominations committee met yesterday morning (which feels like two weeks ago), Bishop Grove shared with us how he believes that God's same guidance of discernment is at work whether a youth group is electing a treasurer, Jurisdiction Conference is electing a bishop or the nominations committee is filling it's slots on committees. At first I thought it was a little silly of him to compare a youth group selecting a treasurer to the process of choosing a bishop, but after an entire day of interviewing, I see the similarity very clearly. I was actually reminded of being at United Methodist Student Forum about ten years ago and voting for members of our National Steering Committee. There were even some of the same questions, e.g. "Will you uphold the Discipline?"
I must say, this is without doubt the stupidest question you could ask. Would anyone, ANYONE, ever say no to this? Is anyone who has allowed their name to go forward as a potential Bishop ever going to say that? THAT'S WHAT A BISHOP DOES! It's like asking, "If elected, will you be a Bishop?"

Anyway, I was in a group of about thirty people and it was great. I think it was one of the best processes of group interviewing and church conferencing I've had. I'm not saying it was fun or energizing, but after doing it for all day from 8:30-8:30 (with two meal breaks and two ten minute breaks) I feel just fine about it.
Every group (13 in total) asked two questions that were the same.
1) If you are elected Bishop, what sort of a legacy would you like to be remembered by after you retire?
2) What brings you to tears and what brings you laughter?
I was shocked by these questions personally and they weren't helpful for any of the interviews except for one small instance. One person explicitly made the connection between tears and righteous anger, which I appreciated. Other than that, it just left me feeling that these people must spend a lot of time laughing, crying and then thinking about their reputations.
It was weird.
Beyond that, each group could proceed as they wished. As I said before, my group was very loose and trusting so we could go with the flow. I learned that at least one group voted on what questions could be asked and then they just read the same ones over and over. That must have been terrible boring for everyone.

We asked some questions designed to specific candidates. For example, I asked a candidate who serves on the board of Good News what he thinks the role of UM Caucus groups that aren't a part of the official church structure should be and how his relationship and understanding would change were he elected Bishop. We also just had some out there good questions, "What's your best mistake?", "Where do you think the Conference Office for Baltimore-Washington should be located?", "Can you give a specific example of how you will use the office of Bishop to be in ministry with Hispanic people?"
We had one or two really silly questions (which I actually didn't mind) "Can you dance the Macarana?" "Do you play a musical instrument?"

I asked one person why I should vote for a white male. (yes, he was a white man)

We have several very good candidates. There are three I would be very happy with and a fourth who I think would be good as well. However, some of them were very, very weak. Maybe they had given up or rethought their call after a few hours of going through this. Some were clearly great pastors and cool people but they didn't offer any help to us on why they would be a good Bishop. A few were pretty boring. (perhaps our fault not theirs) I won't say anything negative about the people who I hope don't get elected. Besides that, I'm at a place right now where I really trust the process. Even if the outcome is bad, I know we are working in good faith.

Still lots of conversations and meetings happening about how groups, delegations and trusted friends think things should go.

I've been posting so late because I've been staying up talking with friends, basically getting my gay fix.

But regarding the heterosexuality issue, please remember: I think that they are still children of God and of sacred worth. God still loves them and so should we... Next question.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Setting the Table

After midnight at the Harrisburg Hilton the staff is busily preparing for the next day. Handrails are being polished, the seemingly countless water goblets are being replaced and carpets are being vacuumed. I think the delegates to Jurisdictional Conference have been doing similar work all day preparing for a smooth running process.
I spent about almost all day in session with the Nominating Committee. We scheduled to meet until lunch but had to go until just after 10:00pm. (with breaks for meals and Bible Study). All in all, I'm only counting us as being in session for about seven hours. You know you've reached a new level when seven hours of nominating people for church committees isn't that bad... In fact! I'm feeling like I'm all warmed up for tomorrow. We begin interviewing candidates for Bishop.

The nominating process was very difficult. Our representation on committees was literally shrinking throughout the day, thanks to a small miscalculation we were originally given. Basically New England had to fill five spots which then became six which then became four and which finally ended up being five (including one we didn't know we had filled until after lunch because they were appointed via another nominating body earlier this year). So... I'm sure that's clear to you.
I'm very glad that I can trust the people I was working with, it just made it easier. However, I hadn't prepared myself for the fact that immediately after we adjourned at 10:10, we met with our entire delegation, which had been arriving throughout the day and reported our results. It was basically all of the reactions and thoughts and emotions we'd been experienced since 8:30 condensed into a ten-minute conversation. Not easy. But then again, I think I can do this work.

We had a large group Bible Study, which I would really call more of a sermon. But for me one, the welcome from the Mayor of Harrisburg was actually very interesting. The Mayor basically preached! And it was good! I suppose I was surprised that this person who looked like... well... the Mayor of Harrisburg, was so challenging and spiritual and inspiring. It was really quite wonderful EXCEPT for the fact that he made a series of very uncomfortable jokes about the Bishop and delegation from West Virginia and their roots in the Confederate States of America. It was bizarre and highly questionable. Turns out that it is also incorrect, as Bishop Lyght of West Virginia pointed out.

We also met our small groups that will be interviewing candidates tomorrow. I've got a good group. We created some questions to ask and they seemed fair to me (but I did have to leave early because Nominating reconvened at 9:00 pm).

On the total silliness factor: there are chocolate candy bars being distributed that feature Bishop Middleton of Harrisburg on the wrapper in her purple episcopal clergy blouse. It's weird and I'm not sure if it's supposed to be funny or not. I'll have to ask her about them. It looks like the sort of gag gift you might make for someone on their fiftieth birthday or retirement party. I'll try to get my hands on one of these or snap a photo.

Well the table is set for our work. It's funny having the experience of working all day before things really begin. Even as I look around the lobby at this late hour, most of the staff seems to have finished their preparations. The only piece of trash is an empty can of TAB soda on the coffee table in front of me. I wonder who still drinks TAB?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Arrival in Harrisburg

I had to ask the members of St. Nicholas to keep the prayer concerns to a minimum this morning because I wanted to be on the road by 11:30 to make Harrisburg in time to meet with the other members of New England's Nominating Committee. The parishioners didn't hold back on the prayer concerns but they did add an extra request that I arrive safely and on time. And I did!
I met tonight with two other members of the delegation and the Bishop as we reviewed names for the Jurisdictional Nominating process. The meeting is scheduled to run from 8:30-12:30 tomorrow morning.
From what I can put together, we will have very VERY minimal opportunity to fill somewhere between three and six spots on the Boards of Directors of the General Boards, Agencies and Commissions of the church. In other words, this won't quite be as interesting as my work at General Conference where we talked about gay sex.
I'm headed to bed now a little after 2:00 am thanks to a rather problematic attempt at printing something. Apparently the Hilton (not sure why they booked us at the Hilton) isn't used to having guests who need to print things. (Is it that exotic?)
That's seventeen dollars and sixty-one cents to print 15 pages.
Why didn't I just put my printer in the car?

Sunday, July 13, 2008


The Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church starts today!

"What is that?" you ask?

Well, it's simply, really - it didn't take much for me to figure it out.  Just-a-dictionary.

And a Book of Discipline.  And an entire course about the organization of the UMC.  And constant questions posed to my life-long-Methodist friends, who (sometimes) understand what really goes on at all these conferences we keep having.  

Anyway, since I know you're waiting with bated breath, anxious to discover what this just-a-dictionary post is about...  United Methodists from West Virginia on up through Maine are gathering in Harrisburg, PA today, to collaborate and make decisions on a regional level.  One of the sexiest things this Jurisdictional Conference will do is elect a new bishop!  (or maybe two...?  We'll know soon enough!)

There's biographical info about the candidates for bishop online ( - but keep in mind that new people can be nominated during the conference).  One of the candidates is Aida Irizarry-Fernandez, who's been our district superintendent for the last few years.  You may remember Aida from our 5th Anniversary Celebration, where she presented CWM with a check from the New England Annual Conference to help kick off our Mission Fund campaign.  Aida was endorsed by New England, as was Linda Campbell-Marshall, a pastor from Maine who - like Aida - was a delegate to General Conference this year.

Each week at Cambridge Welcoming, we gather to lift up & support one another, to proclaim god's love for ALL people, to celebrate and mourn and laugh - and eat dinner with some pretty awesome people!  Whether at church, at work, at home, in Massachusetts or beyond - I know we've all seen the wondrous things that can be accomplished when brave & compassionate leaders guide people through the sometimes scary process of doing great new things.

So along with a two-thumbs-up show of support for our friends converging on Harrisburg - including our own Will Green, and Rev. Scott Campbell, who preached at CWM two weeks ago - I offer up prayers that the holy spirit moves the delegates to elect a prophetic bishop who will unapologetically, unrelentingly place compassion before complacence, justice before "just-us," and GLBT inclusion before the generally inexcusable stance of current UMC policies that cut people off from the love of god and church. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Summer Sabbatical

Today begins my two month sabbatical as part of the Sustaining Urban Pastoral Excellence (SUPE) Program at Boston University School of Theology. Not only does this program offer me a time for renewal and concentrated work on my dissertation, it also initiates a three year program of congregational development in which CWM will act as a teaching site for area seminaries, partnering with the academy to nurture new leaders and grow our own faith community.

Although during my July 1st to September 4th sabbatical I will be staying in town, I will not be at work in the local church. During this time CWM has an exciting list of guest preachers who will lead us in worship. In addition, Rev. Marion Grant and Rev. Nizzi Digan have agrred to provide for the pastoral needs of the congregation as they may arise. You may also feel free to contact our lay leaders, Michele Naughton ( and Marla Marcum ( with any questions you may have. You can reach them via email.

Please keep me in your prayers as I embark on this summer sabbatical! I look forward to returning to be with you in the fall!



Sabbatical Calendar

July 6th Rev. Marion Grant

July 13th Rev. Judy Kohatsu

July 20th Rev. Marion Grant

July 27th Rev. Jeremy Smith

August 3rd Annie Britton

August 10th Sean Delmore

August 17th Marla Marcum

August 24th Rev. Nizzi Digan

August 31st Michele Naughton

September 7th Lisa Fagerstrom

Contact Information

Pastoral Coverage


Rev. Marion Grant 617-387-2515


Rev. Nizzi Digan 781-233-9277