An anonymous clergywoman writes the following in response to the question “Why don’t you just leave?” asked by Traditionalists seeking a denomination without progressives or LGBTQ persons.
Here’s her answer:
You Loved Me First
In the hours and days after this General Conference, I’ve found myself disgusted with false equivalencies between traditionalists and progressives. Many bishops, instead of taking a clear stand, chose to speak of two near-equal sides harming one another. False. Progressives came to the conference with a hand outstretched, with plans that said we still needed one another. They came begging and pleading, not for a liberal church, but for a unified one that made space for everyone. Traditionalists came with a view that progressives had nothing of value to give this church and sought to cut all ties through a punitive plan that would force us out. These are not equal in any way. One came with cruelty, the other with sacrifice.
When asked why they are so unwilling to make space for us, many traditionalists answer with questions like, “Why did you join a church you didn’t agree with? Why do you join and try to change us?” These questions hurt me deeply because it’s akin to asking a son why he joined a family. I didn’t join a church with whom I disagreed. This church is the church of my birth. This church loved me first. It claimed me at my baptism. This church adopted me. It raised me. It formed me. It confirmed me. And now, this church does not want the daughter it raised. We’ve been rejected by the mothers and fathers of this church and it didn’t happen overnight. This process of rejection is laborious, painful and ongoing.
I wasn’t surprised by the outcomes or arguments at this General Conference. Oh how I wanted to be! I wanted so much for our mothers and fathers to open their arms, extend their hands, and wipe away tears. And this church taught me to hope in the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of love and vulnerability and so, I came, like others, with all the hope I could muster. I knew the votes would be a razor thin margin–I know my parents well.
So many groups within our family and beyond our family worked for years to make sure that thin margin holds fast. Boards of Ordained Ministry stacked by bishops with conservative voices, increased support for very conservative non-UM seminaries, strong slates of delegates, promises of support to those in the Central Conferences, training people how to vote before General Conference begins, para-church organizations like Young Life training our youth in Biblical literalism while withdrawing support from young people’s ministries within the UMC, hiring youth workers who come from Southern Baptist traditions, and using confirmation curriculum from more conservative sources than the UMC. Desperately, our parents try to raise sons and daughters they want to keep and consistently their discipleship creates sons and daughters they need to throw out.
It couldn’t be that our church raises faithful, thoughtful children who, when wrestling with Scripture and praxis, find the stances of the church aren’t quite fitting anymore. It couldn’t be these evangelical sons and daughters are being moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. It couldn’t be these recalcitrant children are clinging to their Wesleyan heritage and the love they knew since their baptisms. No. These children were led astray at some point, are doing harm, and must be aborted.
The problem is, dear mother church, dear father church, you produce children like me. Children you call deformed or abominations. But it is not because of a flaw in boards of ordained ministries or seminaries or youth leaders or curriculum or general agencies or the Social Principles. You have to work so hard to keep us from growing up this way because your polity and praxis, your foundation in prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace, your very General Rules and Articles of Religion, produce us.
As you look us in the eyes and vote us out, as you praise God with our songs and our voices while breaking our spirits, as you accept our tithes and fund organizations trying to remove us from your presence, we fight back, with the language you gave us. With the faith you raised in us. The love of Jesus you taught us saved us.
Thank you broken Body. You gave me my baptism. You called me a child of God. You did this. You brought me in. And if you are staying Wesleyan, I contend that no matter what your rules are around exclusion, you will continue to give birth to and raise children like me. We aren’t going away–even when you vote to bind our hearts for justice and call it love. Your harming us, your breaking up families, your pushing, doesn’t make us leave. We will keep being born.
I’m United Methodist. I love who we are and what we believe. I’m not able to simply join another church because I don’t fit anywhere else. And so, I keep showing up to a battle already lost, with arms outstretched and tears on my face, forcing you to make me leave. I don’t turn my back on you. I am always hoping, one day you will love me the way you did at my baptism. When my arms were outstretched and tears were on my face and you embraced me, calling me Child of God.
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